Americans Could Learn From ‘The Great British Baking Show’

Never am I more aware of how ramped up and divided America is than when I watch the contrast of civility and kindness exhibited on "The Great British Bake Off", my current favorite means of television escapism and entertainment.

(It can be seen on PBS and Netflix, where it's known as "The Great British Baking Show" -  because of an American trademark issue with the Pillsbury Bake-off.)

If you've missed it (and if you have, that's a shame) "The Great British Baking Show" is a popular British television series that features elimination rounds between amateur British bakers demonstrating their culinary talents. The contestants are tasked with creating a variety of challenging custards, tarts, puddings, breads, cookies, pies and every kind of sweet and savory delicious food imaginable, mainly things that involve flour and/or sugar. Every 10 weeks it's a brand new set of bakers.

Only paid subscribers have access to our site's lead stories, as well as the Convo Cafe. When you become a recurring subscriber, you will have full access to all lead stories as well as the entire website. Plus, you'll have the option to receive email notifications of everything we post on

We look forward to you being part of's online family of paid subscribers. Your support helps us not just survive, but thrive and bring even more quality content to you by top-notch contributors and journalists about topics crucial to you, our region and our world.

Read more about our decision here.

Click here to subscribe!

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Doni Chamberlain
Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded what’s now known as in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Chamberlain is an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Redding, California.
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

24 Responses

  1. Barbara Rice Barbara Rice says:

    Yes. That is what is so appealing about TGBBS – how kind all the contestants are to each other. It’s sort of like Mr. Rogers for cooks.

  2. Beverly Stafford says:

    I guess I should have watched more than one episode of TGBBS. That one show really puzzled me. The contestants were baking something that required a long rise time so between the prep and rise, there wasn’t enough time for it to bake; yet they were judged on the final underbaked product. Made no sense to me.

    I’ve often thought that if I were on a panel where each person had a nameplate which included such descriptions as African American and Mexican American, I would insist that my nameplate state English, French, Norse, a touch of Armenian and Basque, some Italian and Spanish American. Since most American blacks have never been to Africa and many of Mexican descent are third generation Americans, why the labels? End of rant.

  3. Debbie Davis says:

    Love your message of peace. It begins in our own hearts. I think eating cake together is an excellent idea!

  4. Cynthia Stuart says:

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t get the dessert baking gene since I can only produce pies that are clearly homemade. Nevertheless, binge watching the GBBS has inspired a deep desire in me to make a layered sponge that doesn’t tilt or slide. What I love about the show is exactly what you wrote—the people, the kindness, the pride in achievement versus financial reward. It’s theatre at its feel-good best. Cheers!

    • It IS an inspirational program, and it often sends me running to the kitchen to try something. I should have mentioned my education in British cooking terms, like referring to items as “bakes”, and cakes as sponges, and all kinds of descriptive words and phrases we don’t use here. (Soggy bottoms, etc.) And many of their foods and techniques are foreign to me, too, like hot-water crusts, and the heavy use of of passion fruit in their desserts, and baked puddings (not the Jell-O kind), and even things that we don’t see much here, like trifles.

      It kind of makes me want to be British.

      Sometimes I wonder if many of us will start incorporating the GBBS words and pronunciations into our culture.

      • Cynthia Stuart says:

        I created a “translation” list of terms from UK to US. I would never have figured out that “hundreds and thousands” are what we call “sprinkles.”

      • Richard Christoph says:

        “It kind of makes me want to be British.”

        Indeed. The first time Terri and I visited the U.K. we concluded that perhaps the colonists had made a horrible mistake.

  5. Carolyn Dokter says:

    I so like that show, never miss it. I wholeheartedly agree with your article.

  6. Hal Johnson Hal Johnson says:

    Before Starbucks came to town and the business folded, I would now-and-then stop by a coffee place on Park Marina. If memory serves, it was called “Hill of Beans.” Three different times, I witnessed debates between the staunchly liberal owner and one of his regulars, a resolute conservative.

    They were both passionate in their beliefs, and sometimes, things would get heated, but before the regular would leave, they would talk about small stuff that they agreed on. When the regular left for the day, they parted as friends.

    Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that America.

    • Beverly Stafford says:

      Your comment, “Sometimes, I wonder what happened to that America” resonates, Hal. I’m aghast at the name-calling by POTUS and politicians and newscasters. What happened to civility?

  7. Gayle Rice says:

    I’m not much of a baker and I rarely watch television, but I will watch this show. The creativity, kindness, and support of contestants and judges is amazing. I also like that there is not an annoying, snarky, wanna be comedian as a host. I don’t miss the fake laughter of an audience either.

  8. Matthew Grigsby says:

    I’m one of those non-baking, non-cooking fans of the show. When I was suffering through The Year That Was in 2017, I discovered TGBBS and it became a source of great comfort. Seriously.

    • Matthew Grigsby says:

      (I accidentally cut myself off there). When I needed an escape, a smile, some happy tears or just a glimpse into a world that wasn’t steaming hot garbage, I always turned to TGBBS and it always worked. I got fully invested in the contestants and their challenges and their foibles and their victories. I also became an armchair expert on what they should or shouldn’t do. “Let your dough prove longer! You don’t have the rise you need!” or “You’re making a reckless choice using such a wet filling on that bake! You’ll get a soggy bottom!”

      I also love that the criticism can be devastating but ALWAYS fair and never cruel. If the judges don’t like something, they say exactly why and take no pleasure from the dashed dreams of the contestants. Seeing the contestants scramble to help each other warms my cold, black heart every time. The only other competition show I’ve ever seen that happen is on “Face Off” on the SyFy channel, which is about special effects makeup. We need more of this kind of support in the world.

      • Matthew Grigsby says:

        PS. I usually end up following some of the GBBS contestants on Twitter and they are just as lovely as they are on the show.

  9. Deb Segelitz Deb Segelitz says:

    Sem isn’t a fan of cooking/baking shows, so I haven’t had a chance to watch GBBO (as they call it here). But wholly in your (and Matt’s) honor, I caught the first two episodes of the 2017 show while Sem was at dialysis (my “guilty pleasure TV” opportunity if I have the time), and it was as delightful as you said. Love the parallels to the lessons it can teach us, too!

  10. Joanne Snyder Joanne Snyder says:

    I really loved this article! I have to admit that I love to listen to the San Francisco Giants games because of the announcers….who share a warm give and take while doing a huge job. It’s a comfort. I used to listen to KQMS Billy and Patrick in the morning because they share a cooperative and kind relationship that carries through in their voices even when they disagree about something. I know my comments have nothing to do with baking, but insults, name calling and public embarrassment are behaviors I can’t stand. I think I would enjoy this show. I’m reminded that many countries have had a longer time for workable harmonious living behaviors and manners to develop.

  11. Karen Hafenstein says:

    If I were a great writer, I would have written exactly what you wrote. (See why I’m not?) I no longer watch American cooking shows because of the braggadocio, cut-throat-ness, etc. I will remain a big fan of The Great British Baking Show and hope some of its emotional qualities rub off on Americans who need it!

  12. Janine Hall says:

    I love this show. I really love how kind the bakers are to each other. Never hear words like you do on the Master Chef, unnecessary words. I love cooking and love to learn more things. I don’t need to learn more curse words, I think I know them all.

You must be a subscriber to comment. Click here to subscribe!