Antony Worrall Thompson criticises Great British Bake Off’s ‘woke’ decision to scrap nationality-themed weeks

Popular baking competition was accused of perpetuating harmful stereotypes and ‘casual racism’

Inga Parkel
Thursday 07 September 2023 07:12 BST
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Great British Bake Off introduce 'Mexican Week' dish

Antony Worrall Thompson has hit out at The Great British Bake Off’s “nonsense” decision to discontinue its nationality-themed weeks, after the series was accused of “casual racism”.

The change to the popular baking competition show was announced last week by producer Kieran Smith.

“We didn’t want to offend anyone, but the world has changed, and the joke fell flat,” Smith told The Guardian of last year’s controversial “Mexican Week”. The show’s former “Japan Week” in 2020 and “German Week” in 2021 also faced backlash.

Appearing on GB News on Tuesday (5 September) to speak about the “woke backlash”, celebrity chef Thompson, 72, responded to the show’s choice to scrap the concept – which saw bakers create dishes inspired by the countries spotlighted that week – calling it “utter nonsense”.

“I can’t believe the small minority who don’t like these programmes don’t have an on-off button on their televisions, and they can’t just turn it off. The majority of people enjoy the programme,” Thompson said.

“I mean, as William Shakespeare would say, it’s much ado about nothin’,” he continued. “It’s a light-hearted show. They like to have a bit of fun. Some of the jokes are pretty average I have to say but who cares? You know, it’s a food programme with a bit of fun.

“Decent chefs want to play with food and come out with a better result,” he added. “But as far as this programme is concerned, it’s so pathetic that the minority have such loud voices.”

Antony Worrall Thompson

Thompson himself has faced criticism in the past due to his comments regarding anti-vaxxers as well as his “old school” beliefs.

During Bake Off’s 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.

Following last year’s “Mexican Week”, fans condemned the placement of sombreros and maracas in the episode, as well as a cake decorated with a moustache.

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The show’s presenters, Prue Leith, Paul Hollywood and Noel Fielding, were also criticised for mispronouncing Spanish words, and for making “tacky” jokes.

Hollywood and Leith later addressed the outraged response, 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.”

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.

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