'Great British Baking Show' contestants call for the show to fix its diversity issues

Kirstie Renae
·6 min read
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Fans have called out the show's judges and production team as misrepresenting non-English cultures. BBC; Channel 4; Marianne Ayala/Insider

Viewers and former contestants alike have criticized "The Great British Baking Show" for how it represents non-English cultures and recipes.

Specifically, some are calling for a more diverse group of judges and hosts, better execution of themed challenges and recipes, and more accountability from the show's production team.

Several contestants who've experienced the diversity issues firsthand told Insider it's time for the show to take responsibility for its missteps and make changes for the future.

One baker pointed out that the contestant pool is quite diverse, but the judges and hosts don't reflect that

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Rav Bansal competed on season seven of "Bake Off." Channel 4

Season-seven baker Rav Bansal told Insider it's time for new judges who better represent the diverse cast of contestants competing on the show, known as "The Great British Bake Off" in the UK.

Throughout the 11 seasons of "The Great British Baking Show," there has never been a host or judge of color.

"I think it's time for new judges," Bansal told Insider. "The show does a great job bringing together contestants from all walks of life that make up British society - different races, religions, sexualities - but I would like to see that same diversity reflected in the judges and hosts."

Two contestants told Insider that the lack of diverse host and judges has led to some unfortunate interactions

Bansal told Insider that the lack of diversity affects how well the judges can score non-English flavors and recipes.

"Certain flavors and techniques are not as ubiquitous as others, and they can often get lost in translation," Bansal said.

The baker said he remembered Paul Hollywood "not knowing what a yuzu was" when Bansal used it in one of his cake recipes. Yuzu is a citrus fruit with an East Asian origin that's mostly cultivated in Japan, Korea, and China.

On season nine, Antony Amourdoux was among several of the contestants, hosts, and judges who were called out by fans on Twitter for incorrectly referring to naan as "naan bread," which would translate to "bread bread," during a technical challenge.

Many "Bake Off" fans were confused about how the Indian baker could make that mistake since the dish is so popular in many parts of the country. But Amourdoux, who clarified during the episode that he's "not from the region that makes naans," told Insider he experienced other uncomfortable moments behind-the-scenes.

"It was just awful. Sandi [Toksvig] - who was the presenter then - came out said, 'You're going to smash the next challenge' and I came literally at the bottom of the pile," Amourdoux said. "There is no naan down south. I can't for the life of me ever remember my mom making naan."

"I'm not from the region that makes naans," Amourdoux said to the camera during the episode.

"I actually remember Prue Leith telling me that when my mom watched the show she would be absolutely insulted watching me on TV," he told Insider. "But there ain't no naan down south!"

Representatives for Sandi Toksvig and Prue Leith did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment on Amourdoux's recollections.

Another contestant said the production team, rather than individual bakers, is to blame for some of the show's missteps with non-English recipes

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One baker made panda-themed buns on Japanese week. Channel 4

Season four's Ali Imdad told Insider that he blames the production staff, not always the individual contestants, for cultural misrepresentations on the show.

He was especially shocked by how the series handled its Japanese-themed week on 2020's season 11.

"I'm not particularly sensitive because I understand that not everyone is going to know other people's culture. I get that," he said. "But when half the contestants were saying, 'It's not really Japanese, it's Chinese,' and one of them was making panda buns I was thinking, 'That has nothing to do with Japan.'"

"I'm not going to blame the contestants for that," Imdad continued. "I just thought it was a bit weird that the production company could be like, 'This is acceptable.'"

Imdad explained that the bakers have to get all their recipes approved before they start filming the episode, so there was time to fix these issues before the challenges even occurred.

"Before filming is even discussed, the recipes would've gone from the contestants to the production company and they would've had to approve it," Imdad said. "I don't understand why they would give the theme of Japan and then see stuff that came through that was Chinese and say, 'This is fine. No one will notice. What's the difference?'"

He said the production team was "sloppy to let that slide."

"I was so excited to see what kind of aspects of Japanese culture would be featured and was disappointed when half of them were doing Chinese," he told Insider.

Although the show isn't perfect, some bakers gave it credit for expanding beyond traditional UK recipes

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The season-nine bakers made Ma'amoul as a technical challenge. Channel 4

Although bakers said the series has a ways to go when it comes to representing non-English flavors, some appreciate that the show is trying to expand its horizons.

For example, though "Japanese Week" had its flaws, Japanese pastry chef Tomoko Kato told Insider's Debanjali Bose in 2020 that the matcha-crêpe-cake technical challenge was pretty fitting for Japan-themed baking.

"In Japan, French patisseries are very common," Kato said. "You often see Japanese chefs studying abroad and returning to Japan with those influences."

The show has also featured food from around the globe like Hungarian Dobos tortes, German schichttorte cakes, Cyprian flaouna pastries, and Spanish churros over the years.

"There's so much effort that goes into getting a diverse set of bakers and the food producers go out of their way to actually look at bakes across the world," Amourdoux told Insider. "I remember my year we did Ma'amoul, which is Middle Eastern."

Amourdoux told Insider that these different bakes from non-English cultures make the show "pretty cool" for fans from around the globe to watch.

"It's not just bakes from the UK," he said. "You've got to have some spice and culture. That's what makes it interesting every year."

Representatives for "The Great British Baking Show" did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Follow along with our series of interviews to see what else the former bakers revealed to Insider.

Read the original article on Insider