Bake Off to scrap controversial themes following criticism

The Great British Bake Off will no longer feature weeks themed around nationalities or countries following a backlash to last year’s “Mexican Week”.

The food competition returns in September for its 13th series, with Alison Hammond taking over from Matt Lucas as Noel Fielding’s presenting partner. Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood will be back as the show’s judges.

In addition to a new co-host, this year’s series of Bake Off will also feature a change to the format. National-themed weeks are being scrapped, following backlash in previous years to “Japan Week” in 2020, “German Week” in 2021 and “Mexican Week” in 2022.

Speaking toThe Guardian ahead of the new series, executive producer Kieran Smith said that this year’s competition would be “very traditional”.

Addressing criticism around the themed weeks, Smith said that he would “hold my hands up”.

“We didn’t want to offend anyone but the world has changed and the joke fell flat,” he said, adding: “We’re not doing any national themes this year.”

During the nationality-themed weeks, viewers often criticised the show for allowing the contestants to make dishes that were not authentic to the countries claiming to be represented.

There were also accusations of stereotypes and “casual racism” from the presenters.

Hermine serves her panda-decorated Japanese buns on ‘Bake-Off' (Channel 4)
Hermine serves her panda-decorated Japanese buns on ‘Bake-Off' (Channel 4)

Last year, the show was widely criticised following its “Mexican Week” challenges. Fans condemned the placement of sombreros and maracas in the episode, as well as a cake decorated with a moustache, branding them stereotypical.

The show’s presenters were also criticised for mispronouncing Spanish words, and for making “tacky” jokes.

The episode also saw contestants make tacos, which some viewers described as “butchering” the famous Mexican dish. Others suggested the segment showed that the show was prioritising cooking over baking.

Hollywood and Leith later addressed the backlash, with the former saying he felt “gutted” about the reaction because he “loves” Mexico.

“I’d literally come back from Mexico about three weeks before we filmed the episode,” he said. “I was all over the place, and we set the challenges based on what I’d seen there. The challenges were very good, and everyone did a good job.”

Hollywood continued: “I was gutted. I mean, I was really upset about it.”

Leith added that “we never go out to be controversial”, saying: “We try to be dead honest. It was quite unfortunate that quite a few people took offence, but we certainly didn’t mean it.

“As Paul says, the thing about Bake Off is that it absolutely represents inclusivity and diversity and tolerance and togetherness… so the idea that we were set out to insult anybody is ridiculous.”

The Great British Bake Off returns on Tuesday 13 September on Channel 4.