Written by Rhiana Bilderaya
Photo by Andy Tucker
If you’re in need of a wholesome reality cooking show to watch, look no further than Netflix’s Great British Baking Show. You can either start from the beginning, or start with the most recent season, which was filmed last year during the COVID pandemic.
All of the bakers had to quarantine before participating, and they couldn’t see their families during filming unless it was over video or on the phone. Despite that, all of the bakers have great attitudes. They are funny and kind to one another and will often stop what they’re doing to help someone else out. In the context of a competition, this comes across as especially touching. You get the sense that they’re genuinely happy for one another when someone gets “Star Baker” (the award given to the best baker of the week) and sad when someone gets sent home.
As far as the baked creations go, because all of the participants live in the U.K., there are some desserts and dishes you probably won’t have heard of if you grew up in America. Each week has a different theme, like “Bread Week,” with three different challenges/recipes for the judges to try. The first challenge is a “Signature” dish, where bakers can practice their recipe for the judges. The next challenge is the “Technical” challenge, where bakers have a vague recipe for a sign unseen dish that they haven’t gotten to practice. The third dish is an elaborate “Showstopper,” where the contestants should wow the judges with a dish that looks and tastes amazing. The contestants are able to practice their showstopper challenges, but it often goes much differently during the competition. There are also a lot of new words to keep track of, like “stodgy,” which is a word the judges use when they think a bread is too thick or heavy.
Now that I’ve watched more than just the most recent season, I can see that the talent varies a lot from season to season. Everyone on the show is an experienced home baker, but in the non-COVID seasons, the participants seem to come up with more complex and intricate dishes to show the judges. It’s possible that in the most recent pandemic season, there were fewer people willing to leave their families.
There’s no shortage of humor, with two hosts who are actors/comedians in the U.K. Matt Lucas, the newest host, has been on Dr. Who and Bridesmaids, among other works. Noel Fielding is a comedian who’s been on IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh. They talk to the bakers during filming, sometimes distracting them, which is amusing to viewers and probably less to the competition participants. Viewers also get to know the bakers over the course of the show, with snippets of their lives shown.
With a few more months to go until widespread vaccination, there’s still plenty of time to watch a new show. Who knows, it may even inspire you to make a new dish like scones or pasties.