“The Great British Baking Show” Offers Excellent Escapism


“The Great British Baking Show” is airing a new season. (Courtesy of Facebook)

Emma Butler, Copy Chief

Many people turn on the Food Network to see reality cooking competitions that offer high-pressure, cutthroat and highly critical challenges. However, in the midst of a global pandemic, sometimes it’s better to turn on Netflix, slow down and enjoy a cooking competition that doesn’t always put you on the edge of your seat. Enter “The Great British Baking Show.”

“The Great British Baking Show” — or “The Great British Bake Off,” depending on which side of the pond you’re on — is a reality baking competition that showcases the talents of some of the best amateur bakers in the country. The show consists of around 12 bakers from various parts of the United Kingdom, who compete in challenges designed to test their skills and impress the show’s judges. “The Great British Baking Show” has two celebrity chef judges — currently Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith — and two hosts — currently comedians Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas. Each week consists of three challenges: a “signature” challenge meant to showcase the bakers’ abilities, a “technical” challenge, in which the bakers are asked to make a recipe — handpicked by the judges — that they have never seen before and a “showstopper” challenge, an elaborate bake meant to test skill and creativity while still presenting something professional. After the three challenges have been completed, the judges pick a “star baker” of the week and someone to send home. 

Based on its basic premise, this TV show wouldn’t seem very different from other reality cooking shows, but anyone who has seen “The Great British Baking Show” knows that this competition stands apart from the rest.

While Americans are used to the intense pressure and nonstop chaos of “Chopped,” or Gordon Ramsay’s very creative and colorful insults on “Hell’s Kitchen,” “The Great British Baking Show” turns down the heat, slows the pace and focuses instead on offering a spectacle of beautiful, quintessentially English bakes.  

The show features bright colors, beautiful estates along the English countryside and possibly every British dessert and pastry under the sun, along with bakes from other cultures and countries. In each episode, viewers are introduced to fun recipes and creative flavor combinations, with each week taking on a different theme, like bread week or patisserie week. Honestly, I never expected to be this invested in marzipan or the creation of a delicious Battenberg cake, but now I can proudly call myself an expert on both.

However, the best thing about “The Great British Baking Show” is simply how every person who participates in it — contestants, judges and hosts alike — are all so nice. Seriously, you’ll never watch a more polite competition in your life. For every bake, no matter how bad, the judges always have at least one nice thing to say to each of the bakers. Rather than being harsh or yelling at contestants, Prue and Paul guide each baker with constructive criticism, and when a recipe is absolutely perfect, a baker will receive a coveted handshake from Paul Hollywood. That politeness extends to the contestants’ actions as well. Oftentimes bakers will help each other if they finish up early and wear a piece of clothing or accessory to honor someone who was kicked off in the previous week. At the end of each season, the show airs pictures and videos from bakers who meet up with each other as friends after the competition ends.

When I was looking for an outlet to take up my time while I was wasting away in quarantine, “The Great British Baking Show” became my perfect escape from reality. I am a terrible cook and, at best, a decent baker, but this show has still managed to bring me joy during a period of so much anxiety. Whether that anxiety comes from the pandemic, an overload of coursework or election coverage, I know that I always have “The Great British Baking Show” to fall back on when I need a moment to decompress. I’ve even considered tackling some of the bakers’ more simple recipes, which can be found on the show’s website.

For anyone looking for a delicious binge of escapist television, I highly recommend “The Great British Baking Show.” The newest season is currently airing on Netflix, with a new episode every week. I promise you’ll come out of it with a smile on your face and more recipes than you know what to do with.