'The Great British Baking Show' faced criticism for its 'Japanese Week' episode, but a Japanese pastry chef says it didn't get everything wrong (2023)

  • "The Great British Baking Show" tests home bakers in the UK on their kitchen skills through three competitive rounds each episode: signature, technical, and showstopper challenges.
  • On October 30, the show's "Japanese Week" episode was released in the US on Netflix.
  • Viewers on Twitter said that contestants were infusing their bakes with flavors from other Asian countries, like China and India.
  • Insider spoke to pastry chef Tomoko Kato of Patisserie Tomoko, who believes that Japanese cuisine has "room for both traditional and nontraditional" baking.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

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"The Great British Baking Show" released its "Japanese Week" episode stateside on October 30 on Netflix, and viewers on both sides of the Atlantic haven't been impressed with how the series represented Japanese baking.

Specifically, many felt that the episode conflated different types of Asian cuisine, echoing the racist stereotype that all Asian cultures are the same.

Tomoko Kato, the executive pastry chef and owner of New York pastry shop Patisserie Tomoko, told Insider that while she can understand the criticism of the show's episode, she feels "there is room for both traditional and nontraditional" baking in Japanese cuisine.

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The 'Japanese Week' episode was a hot topic on Twitter when it aired, with viewers calling out contestants using non-Japanese flavors

On Twitter, viewers called out the lack of any "actual Japanese desserts" featured in the episode's three challenges and how a number of bakers opted to use Indian and Chinese flavors in their bakes.

—Mandana (@LimooTorshQueen) November 1, 2020
—Chelsea Cirruzzo (@ChelseaCirruzzo) November 1, 2020

Some contestants were aware that they'd used non-Japanese flavors in their bakes. Peter Sawkins admitted that his lamb-filled and lamb-shaped steamed buns were "more Chinese-inspired than Japanese-inspired," while Laura Adlington's "piggy pork belly bun" used hoisin and oyster sauces, both of which are more commonly found in Chinese cooking.

"The Japanese element of it is the bun, but this is probably more traditional Chinese-flavored pork," Adlington said to the cameras during the challenge.

'The Great British Baking Show' faced criticism for its 'Japanese Week' episode, but a Japanese pastry chef says it didn't get everything wrong (2)

Netflix

Indian flavors, like Chinese flavors, were also represented in the first challenge. For example, contestant Marc Elliot used dal (lentils) and mango chutney in his steamed buns.

While another contestant, Hermine, made her steamed buns with shittake mushrooms (a common type of mushroom in Japanese cuisine), spiced chicken, and fresh chili, she shaped them like pandas — an animal that's native to central China, not Japan, as some on Twitter pointed out.

—yoojin 🌱 (@yoojpls) October 30, 2020

Some also pointed out a possible issue with the root of the first round signature challenge: that steamed buns are actually Chinese in origin, not Japanese (though there are many variations on steamed buns in other cultures, including Japan).

—Jenny Pei (@ynpjenny) October 27, 2020
—Kazuho Oku (@kazuho) October 30, 2020

The mixing in of other, non-Japanese Asian cuisines wasn't the only issue viewers had with the episode.

Several called out one culturally insensitive moment when cohost Matt Lucas made a joke about "cat poocurry" as a play on the katsu curry contestant David Friday said he'd used in his steamed buns.

"Pardon me but what f------ is this," journalist Lindsey Wasson wrote on Twitter. "7 mins in & we've had a 'cat poo curry' (katsu curry joke)," she added.

(Video) Uncle Roger Review GREAT BRITISH BAKE OFF Japanese Week

—Lindsey Wasson (@lindseywasson) October 31, 2020

Contestants often use nontraditional ingredients on 'The Great British Baking Show'

While the series has increasingly featured cuisine-focused episodes like "Japanese Week" in recent years, each episode ordinarily just focuses on one type of bake, like cake, biscuits, or bread. Bakers have been known to get creative (and nontraditional) with their flavors in those weeks, infusing flavors and ingredients from around the world into traditionally British or French bakes.

Two notable examples this season include Hermine's Moroccan Tagine Pasties, which featured Moroccan flavors in a traditional Cornish pastry, and Mak's East India Battenberg Cake.

'The Great British Baking Show' faced criticism for its 'Japanese Week' episode, but a Japanese pastry chef says it didn't get everything wrong (3)

Netflix

Japanese pastry chef Tomoko Kato told Insider she believes 'there is room for both traditional and nontraditional' baking

Kato breaks in opinion from the consensus on Twitter, though she doesn't think the critiques are entirely wrong.

"I can understand the criticism, but it personally doesn't bother me very much," Kato said.

"There is a style of Japanese cooking that strictly follows tradition," she continued. "But that was not part of any of [the show's] challenges. Japan has so many distinct food styles and specialties. There is room for both traditional and nontraditional."

Regarding viewers' point about steamed buns being included, Kato said that in Japan, the steamed bun, which is called "nikuman" in the country, has become a part of the food culture.

That said, Kato did wonder why "The Great British Baking Show" chose nikuman specifically and pointed out that there are plenty of other breads, like kare pan and anman, that the show might have highlighted instead. "[Kare pan and anman] are more like Japanese to me," Kato said.

Bryan Washington wrote for The New Yorker in April that "kare pan is a little like a savory jelly doughnut, with a pool of curry filling encased in a deep-fried yeasted crust." According to Washington, kare pan can be traced back to a Tokyo bakery in the 1920s.

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Anman, another traditional Japanese snack, is a steamed bun filled with anko, or red bean paste, per Tastemade.

For the technical challenge, the bakers were asked to make matcha crêpe cakes, which Kato said was a fitting task for Japan-themed baking.

Crêpes themselves are French in origin, per the Institute of Culinary Education. However, Kato told Insider that French baking has influenced Japanese baking in a big way, and said making crêpe cakes was a "totally appropriate" challenge to include in the episode.

"In Japan, French patisseries are very common," Katosaid. "You often see Japanese chefs studying abroad and returning to Japan with those influences. And France isn't the only baking style that you see influencing Japan. One of my favorite cakes in Japan is the German Baumkuchen."

As for the kawaii cakes the bakers were asked to make for the final showstopper challenge, Kato told Insider that this baking trend is popular in Japan.

'The Great British Baking Show' faced criticism for its 'Japanese Week' episode, but a Japanese pastry chef says it didn't get everything wrong (4)

Netflix

"There is a clear kawaii aesthetic. You do find it in Japanese baking, but I would say the more classic French pastries are more popular in Japan," she said.

Despite not being bothered much by how the show represented Japanese baking, Kato did have some suggestions for improvement. She said it might be a good idea to include popular Japanese desserts, like the Japanese cheesecake, if the show does another "Japanese Week" episode in the future.

This isn't the first controversial moment of the season — or the series

During "Bread Week," judge Prue Leith elicited minor outrage after she said fellow judge Paul Hollywood's version of the babka was better than any she'd had in New York.

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'The Great British Baking Show' faced criticism for its 'Japanese Week' episode, but a Japanese pastry chef says it didn't get everything wrong (5)

Netflix

"I have had it in New York and it's not nearly as nice as this," Leith said. Her response riled up quite a few viewers who came to New York babka's defense and jokingly called her comments "blasphemy."

Over the years, viewers and food publications have argued that the show has a complicated relationship with cultural bakes.

"Anyone who's watched ['The Great British Baking Show'] also knows how prickly the judges get when they think something has too much spice, how easily they exoticize non-British foods, and how the standard marker of a good baker is their ability to make a Victoria Sponge," Jaya Saxena wrote for Eater in February.

Saxena echoed Sana Noor Haq, who wrote for Gal-Dem in September 2019 that "The Great British Baking Show" has "a problem with spice."

On the flip side, some of the show's diverse former contestants have defended the series against accusations of whitewashing. Ruby Tandoh, who appeared on the show's fourth season, wrote a Medium post for Heated in February, saying that while the show is "steeped as it is in the symbolism of an old-fashioned, implicitly white Britishness," it continues to promote diverse talent.

Nadiya Hussain, the winner of the sixth season, went on to become a successful cookbook author and writes a weekly column for The Times. Rahul Mandal, the winner of the ninth season, also writes for The Times. Benjamina Ebuehi, a quarter-finalist on season seven, is a food stylist and baker, and published a cookbook, "The New Way to Cake," in 2019. Ebuehi also runs her own blog, Carrot & Crumb.

Netflix did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

"The Great British Baking Show" is currently streaming on Netflix. To watch, you'll need to sign up for a Netflixsubscription. The basic plan costs $8.99 per month, while the standard plan costs $12.99 per month, and the premium plan costs $15.99 per month. (When you subscribe to a service through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners.)

FAQs

What was the technical challenge on Bake Off? ›

Thank you for subscribing! Fans were divided by the "unfair" technical challenge on the Great British Bake Off last night (October 11). Some viewers were left unimpressed after contestants were tasked with making a lemon meringue pie – but not given a recipe.

Do Paul and Mary actually bake the technical challenge? ›

In 2016, when Bake Off was still on BBC One, where Mary Berry was still a judge, Love Productions stated: “No, Paul and Mary don't make the cakes. They never have.

Why did Giuseppe move to Milan Bake Off? ›

It was a few days between finishing the Bake Off filming and jetting off to Milan to start a new job. Given the complexities of things, I couldn't move my family, so they're all still in Bristol. I commute a lot, usually weekly.

Is Bake Off scripted? ›

The show isn't staged, which helps set it apart from some other competition series. Although reality TV has a reputation for not being very real, according to Hetherington, "Bake Off" is an exception. "Nothing is staged on this show.

Who is the most successful Bake Off contestant? ›

Nadiya Hussain, Bake Off winner 2015

I'm never gonna say, "I don't think I can". I can and I will. ' Clearly, the baker has been living by those words ever since her win, and has enjoyed an extremely successful career, with a net-worth estimated at £3.7million.

Do Bake Off contestants pay for their ingredients? ›

Once in the big tent, all ingredients are paid for by production. Contestants are given a per-episode allowance and have to shop accordingly. You must stay in the same hotel as the other bakers.

What are the 3 Bake Off challenges? ›

In each episode, the amateur bakers are given three challenges based on that week's theme: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper.

Do the contestants on Great British baking show know the challenges in advance? ›

Contestants do have a good idea of what they'll be baking ahead of time though, as they have to supply the show's food producer with every signature and showstopper recipe for the series when they successfully make it into the line-up.

Who makes the technical challenge examples on Bake Off? ›

Home economic experts reportedly bake the show's technical examples for Paul and Prue to taste, claims the Huffington Post. It is thought that Bake Off bosses hire these people while the judges get their hair and make-up done. Doing a masters is like the technical challenge on the bake off.

What happened to Giuseppe Dell Anno? ›

Giuseppe, who is originally from Italy but now lives in Bristol, was crowned the champion of the British baking competition series in November 2021 after fending off fellow amateur bakers Crystelle Pereira and Chigs Parmar.

Where is Chigs now? ›

Despite his Bake-Off success, Chigs still works as a sales manager for Domestic and General, which he says was very supportive of his GBBO experience, especially in allowing him to take seven weeks' leave soon after starting at the company to pursue his newly discovered passion.

Does Giuseppe from Bake Off have a wife? ›

Originally from Italy, Giuseppe now lives in Bristol with his wife and their three young (and noisy!) sons. His love for baking comes from his father, a professional chef who did all the cooking at home as Giuseppe was growing up, including making a cake every Sunday.

What do they do with the cakes on Great British Bake Off? ›

Where happens to the leftover food on the Bake Off? You will be happy to know that the goodies do not go to waste, as the leftover baked goods are shared between the crew and the bakers themselves.

Do the bakers on GBBO buy their own ingredients? ›

Come showtime, production handles buying everything, including any last-minute ingredients bakers might need for their bakes. "People normally have 12–20 ingredients, but it varies," said Faenia Moore, the program's home economist, told the BBC. "Frances Quinn had 124 for her cake in the final."

What happens to the cakes on Bake Off? ›

The baked goods don't go to waste.

"The crew and production team dig in and each of the bakers is sent bites of each other's bakes so we all get to taste each other's as well."

Who is the oldest person to win Bake Off? ›

Nancy Birtwhistle - 2014

At 60, Nancy was the oldest GBBO winner to date. The former GP practice manager and grandmother of eight who retired in 2007, said her earnings after raising the Bake Off cake stand “nicely” topped up her NHS pension.

Who passed away from The Great British Bake Off? ›

Bake Off paid tribute in a title card at the end to one of its producers, Chloe Avery, who died last month after losing her battle with cancer.

Who is the youngest person to win The Great British Bake Off? ›

At the age of 20, gluten-free baker and finance student Peter Sawkins became the youngest ever contestant to be named Bake Off winner. In the 12 months since he was crowned champion, Peter has written his own cookbook.

Why did Manon go home instead of Rahul? ›

Technical difficulties

Prue Leith added: “Manon spent too much time making beautiful sweets and not enough time filling her pastry.” After going back and forth the judges decided it was Manon who deserved to go home on this occasion.

What happens to the leftover food on Bake Off? ›

The show's Chief Home Economist Faenia Moore told BBC Good Food: "It's important for the bakers to eat what they've slaved over, so after each challenge I make up a 'baker's basket' to go to their lunchroom. "Then any leftovers go to the crew's lunch.

Do cooking show contestants know ingredients beforehand? ›

You get to tour the pantry beforehand. So that contestants know what ingredients are available to them in the pantry, each one is given a walk through before filming or cooking starts.

Why is Matt Lucas so thin? ›

Chatting on Gabby Logan's The Mid Point podcast, Matt revealed that he had put on weight over lockdown due to inactivity, and has cut down on eating since – but also has started going on regular walks.

What is a Mochatine? ›

mochatine (plural mochatines) A small coffee-flavoured cake, typically topped with almonds.

Which season of Great British Bake Off is best? ›

So far, Season Nine of The Great British Baking Show has been the most entertaining and popular. This installment was likable mostly for its spunky set of contestants and eventual winner, Rahul Mandal. Season Nine also saw an immense amount of talent, making every challenge a close one.

Was the great British baking show Cancelled? ›

Despite Rumors, The Great British Baking Show Will Air as Planned. Here's How to Watch.

Why is British baking show in a tent? ›

The idea, first floated by executive producer Anne Beattie, was to give the show an aesthetic. What Beattie was going for was a “village fete” theme and create a place where baked goods, jams and pickles could be sold, according to Mashed.

Do they wear the same clothes on Great British baking show? ›

'Great British Baking Show' contestants have to wear the same 'stinky' clothes for days while filming. Bakers on "The Great British Baking Show" wear the same clothes for multiple days of filming. Speaking to Insider, contestants described the experience as "stinky" and "very dirty."

What are 3 technical terms used in the bakery? ›

Bake - To cook in an oven with dry heat. The oven should always be preheated for 10 to 15 minutes before baking. Batter - A mixture of flour, liquid, and other ingredients that is thin enough to pour. Beat - To thoroughly combine ingredients and incorporate air with a rapid, circular motion.

Why do they pretend Bake Off is over 2 days? ›

The bakers mostly film on the weekend, giving them enough flexibility to juggle their personal and professional lives. Although 2013 champ Frances Quinn said it is sometimes filmed midweek, leaving less time to get those bakes up to scratch.

Who makes the example desserts on Great British baking show? ›

Instead, it is Bake Off's team of home economic experts that are said to bake the show's technical examples fresh on the day of the challenge for Prue and Paul to taste.

What's Giuseppe doing in Milan? ›

At the end of he episode, the 45-year-old Italian who had been living in Bristol revealed that he had moved back to Milan and was working on a family recipe book with his father.

Is Giuseppe still married? ›

Although there is not much known about his wife, we do know that Guiseppe is married and lives with his wife in Bristol.

What part of Italy is Giuseppe Dell Anno from? ›

“The entertainment was, and still is, entirely alien to me,” explained Dell'Anno, who is originally from Milan, Italy, but now lives in Bristol with his family.

Does Chigs have a girlfriend? ›

While the contestant has kept his love life firmly under wraps on social media, it does appear that he is single. When Chigs is not baking, he likes to spend time with his nephews who make regular appearances on his Instagram.

What nationality is crystelle? ›

Quadrilingual Crystelle is a baker who brings her wonderfully diverse heritage – born in northwest London to Kenyan born, Portuguese-Goan parents – to the flavours in her baking.

Where is Chigs family from? ›

So when the contestants for the 2021 edition of the Great British Bake Off were revealed in September, it would have raised smiles across the county when Chigs Parmar, a 40 year-old sales manager from Leicester, was announced as one of the fresh batch of bakers.

Do Paul and Prue make the technical bakes? ›

In 2016, when Bake Off was still on BBC One, where Mary Berry was still a judge, Love Productions stated: “No, Paul and Mary don't make the cakes. They never have.

What does Jurgen do for a living? ›

Originally from the Black Forest in Germany, Jürgen moved to the UK in 2003 and now lives with his wife and son overlooking the sea. Unable to find traditional German bread in his adopted home, Jürgen decided to bake his own – and his passion for baking has grown ever since.

What does Giuseppe do for a living? ›

Giuseppe is an engineer, having worked for the National Composites Centre for eight years.

Do Bake Off contestants stay friends? ›

Many of the contestants remained friends with their competitors after the show. For fans who love the show's sense of camaraderie, it's nice to know that many of the contestants are still in touch. "Once you're on 'GBBO' you're all sort of a family," Imdad told Insider.

Do Bake Off contestants wear their own clothes? ›

Bakers have to wear the same outfit to maintain continuity, and they aren't given extras. Season-seven baker Rav Bansal said that working with messy ingredients like food coloring and melted chocolate meant contestants' clothes got "very dirty."

What is the most popular cake flavor in the UK? ›

Oetker Baking has revealed the nation's favourite cake, and to be honest, we're surprised with the result. A study of 2,000 Brits found that chocolate, lemon drizzle and Victoria sponge were among the most popular flavours, but it was cheesecake that took the top spot with 37 per cent of the vote.

Do contestants on baking shows get to use recipes? ›

They are not allowed to use a recipe book. They are expected to have learned the ingredients and techniques before coming to the show. That said, they almost always know in advance what it is that they are going to make. At least a week in advance.

How much does Paul Hollywood make per episode? ›

Paul Hollywood

Scouser Paul was believed to be getting £1.2million over three years from 2017 to 2020 to be the main judge. This meant he bagged £400,000 a series, after getting less than £100,000 a year at the BBC.

Do Bake Off contestants practice? ›

The Bake Off practice tent exists in the Down Hall Hotel grounds, which is where the contestants stay during the competition. Contestants are able to go there to practice their baking and we've actually seen it in action before.

Do contestants get paid on Bake Off? ›

You aren't paid to appear on the show. Whether you win or not, bakers invest quite a bit of personal time to be on the show. However, they aren't financially compensated for their time. The champion doesn't receive prize money either.

Who eats all the cakes on Bake Off the professionals? ›

In a 2015 interview with Digital Spy, series four Bake Off semi-finalist Chetna Makan revealed what happens to the cakes – one way or another, almost everything gets eaten. As she explained: “Before anyone else jumps on it, they always leave a piece of each bake and all the other bakers get to taste them.

Why was Noel absent from Bake Off? ›

In the opening episode of the new Celebrity Bake Off series, co-host Matt Lucas reveals that Fielding will not appear for the first few episodes. As Lucas explains, this is due to the birth of Fielding's new baby.

What are the 3 challenges in Bake Off? ›

Each week the bakers will complete three challenges in line with the theme - a signature, a technical, and a showstopper. The judges, Prue Leith and Paul Hollywood and hosts Matt Lucas and Noel Fielding will return to show for another year.

What are the 3 challenges in GBBO? ›

Each week, bakers must complete three challenges - a signature, a technical, and a showstopper within a given theme. In the signature, bakers can show off their skills by using a tried and tested recipe.

Why did Mel and Sue Stop Bake Off? ›

It is likely Mel and Sue would have also received bumper new deals, but the pair said they were 'shocked and saddened' by the move and wanted the hit programme to stay where it was. On quitting due to this unhappiness, the duo said they were: "Not going with the dough". For more news where you live, visit InYourArea.

Who eats the food on Great British Bake Off? ›

The winner of GBBO season 4, Chetna Makan, said that once once the cameras are off, the bakers dive in and try each other's creations. "Before anyone else jumps on it, they always leave a piece of each bake and all the other bakers get to taste them." The cameramen and production team also leg it in to try the treats.

Where do the Bake Off contestants sleep? ›

5. Do They Stay at the House Where the Tent Is Located? No. The contestants stay at a nearby hotel during the weekends and travel to the tent via minibus during competition days before returning home during the week, Quinn told Cosmopolitan.

Do the Bake Off judges make the technical? ›

Instead, it is Bake Off's team of home economic experts that are said to bake the show's technical examples fresh on the day of the challenge for Prue and Paul to taste.

Why does Matt have no hair? ›

Matt has previously opened up about his alopecia in his biography Little Me: My Life from A-Z, explaining that at the time, doctors decided that he was a delayed shock response to being hit by a car when he was a young child - but as an adult, he was told it was likely due to having an overactive immune system.

Why did Mary leave Bake Off? ›

Mary Berry left The Great British Baking Show out of loyalty to the BBC. When the show moved from the BBC to another network, Channel 4, she decided to stay with the BBC. What is this? The hilarious hosts Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins decided not to continue on, either.

Why did Sue Perkins leave Bake Off? ›

Perkins recently spoke about the new series; her 2017 BBC special, which was filmed six months after her father died of an inoperable brain tumor; and the changes in the Bake Off format that caused her and Mel Giedroyc to quit.

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