Antonia DeBianchi is an Associate Editor, Food & Lifestyle, at PEOPLE. She writes everything from exclusives with Martha Stewart to coverage of TikTok food trends. Before joining PEOPLE, Antonia wrote for the recipe vertical at the Kitchn. She has also freelanced for TODAY Digital, Food52, and Insider. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in Journalism. Antonia enjoys baking and posting food content to Instagram in her free time.
The Great British Baking Show’s Prue Leith is breaking her silence on the criticism surrounding the series’ Mexican week episode.
Leith spoke with The New Yorker to promote her new cookbook Bliss on Toast, but when the competition show faced backlash earlier this month for the themed episode, which audiences have claimed is filled with offensive stereotypes, the outlet followed up with its judge.
"There would have been absolutely no intention to offend," she said, adding that the judges set the challenges for the themed competitions. "That's not the spirit of the show."
Separately, Leith also spoke about the feel-good nature of the Netflix-distributed series. "The whole phenomenon of Bake Off is, to me, absolutely extraordinary. This is rather a cliché thing to say, but I do think that it is a force for good, most of the time," she said.
"Everything we do in life is a bit stressful — we are always short of time, we're short of money, there are all sorts of horrible things happening all over the world," she added. "And Bake Off is this safe space where the worst thing that can happen is somebody will drop their bake. And everybody will be sympathetic!"
During the episode that sparked criticism, bakers were tasked with making pan dulce, steak tacos and a tres leches cake. Hosts Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas opened the hour wearing sombreros and serapes. “I don’t feel like we should make Mexico jokes. People will get upset,” Fielding said to which Lucas responded, “What? No Mexico jokes at all? Not even Juan?”
Throughout the episode, contestants also mispronounced words like guacamole and pico de gallo.
Author Julie Powell tweeted about the controversial episode. "Just watched the Mexican Week episode of Great British Baking Show, and god it was unbearable. Offensive on a lot of levels," she wrote.
During another part of the episode, Fielding asked, "So, is Mexico a real place?" to which Lucas responded, "I think so. I think it's like Xanadu."
Twitter user @KaibaLordYGO also criticized the episode, writing, "Coming from a Mexican this was a very offensive episode. All the jokes and stereotypes."
Another Twitter user, @NinaNyxa, was similarly upset, writing, "well I'm never watching great british baking show ever again. other cultures aren't a joke."
The View co-host, Ana Navarro posted differing thoughts on Twitter. “I ❤️ ⁦@BritishBakeOff⁩. @PaulHollywood⁩ is my celebrity crush. Frankly, I was not offended by the way they depicted Mexicans,” she wrote. “Thought it was corny. But, I was offended by the crimes they committed against tacos & trés leches. ¡Que horror!”
PEOPLE reached out to Netflix and Channel 4 at the time the episode aired for comment, but did not immediately hear back.
This isn't the first time the baking show caused controversy with audiences. During "Japanese Week" in 2020, many viewers expressed their disdain for remarks made by the hosts, contestants and judges.
During the episode, Lucas called katsu curry, "cat poo curry" when describing one of the competitors' bakes.
Author Kat Lieu of @subtleasian.baking drew a parallel between both episodes in an Instagram Reel. “Why I’m not surprised about the Mexican week fiasco,” she wrote. “When they passed off Indian and Chinese food during Japanese Week on the Great British Bake-Off.”
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