This year, Channel 4’s ‘The Great British Bake-Off’ saw one of the purest contestants ever win the competition: Rahul Mandal. His humble demeanour, ambitious creations and tasty bakes won over not only Prue and Paul, but the entirety of Britain. It seems as though everyone is thrilled with this win – everyone except for me, that is.
Sure, Rahul had multiple highs. Let’s not forget his amazing korovai and so many of those famous handshakes from Paul. But let’s also not also forget the tragic kagemand and the patisserie window. The kagemand and patisserie that should have sent him home. How do we evaluate who’s a better contestant on this show? Do we monitor their overall progress? Or do we judge their performances on the day?
The problem with Bake Off this season is that the judges use a mix of these methodologies without any consistent, logical reasoning as to why. The best example of this would be Dan – a top performer who earned Star Baker. He was eliminated in Episode 6 for his (admittedly) awful salmon-shaped coulibiac. It was under-baked, his time management was all over the place, and the salmon looked pretty ugly. It doesn’t matter that Dan was so good before, right? He performed badly on the day. Therefore, he should go home.
If Dan was eliminated for his on-the-day performance, then why was Rahul kept in Episode 8 – AND 9? He produced some of the worst dishes that day. Practically inedible. And yet the judges found a morsel of good food to justify him being kept in the game. It’s inconsistent and unfair to allow one contestant the benefit of the doubt and to deny another. Rahul’s history had been outstanding, sure – but Dan was no slob either.
Other culinary shows like Hell’s Kitchen at least have a standard of evaluation – judge the contestants based on their performances that day. It doesn’t matter about their track record; the bottom line is if they mess up during service, they get sent home. It’s simple and it’s logical.
In this season of Bake Off, the consensus seems to be: be as cute and appealing as possible to win the season. That’s not a judgement on food, it’s a judgement on personality. I’m not saying that Rahul was a bad baker – he was, in fact, very impressive. However, it was his personality that kept him in the game, not the standard of his baking.
Sure, Rahul probably deserved to win final day. His showstopper was the most inoffensive of the three. I don’t deny that his ability to make a cake under incredible pressure is amazing. He encountered troubles at the beginning and still made it through. And even though Kim Joy won the technical and seemed to be in the running for the signature, I would argue that the showstopper does take more precedence over the other two elements. If judged on the day, I would agree that Rahul should have won.
But my problem is how he got there. Allowances were made for Rahul that were not made for other people, and the reasoning behind this is unfair. I love Rahul with all of my heart, I really do. His cakes may have amazing flavours, but his win on Bake Off left nothing but a sour taste in my mouth.