GBBO welcomes a Deaf Baker this season! Will the inclusion of a Deaf Baker mess with the Great British Bakeoff’s recipe for success in their treatment of disabilities? Week 1 spoilers ahead – let’s tuck in!
Warning this article contains spoilers from the most recent season of the Great British Bake Off – Collection 11, Episode 1.
Since its humble beginnings in 2010, the Great British Bake Off (or as it’s known here in the States, The Great British Baking Show) is a guilty pleasure. Gorgeous, comforting “home” bakes by regular British folk. It’s witty, quirky – inspiring as it is familiar. It’s simply the world I want to live in.
Deaf hopes for representation on GBBO
Naturally, news of Deaf representation on any worldwide stage, let alone my touchstone of a show causes Deaf people like me to watch with fingers crossed atop our proverbial kitchen stools. We’re hopeful because when representation is shown authentically, it can be such a powerful way for hearing people to understand us Deaf folks better and therefore connect. We’re cautious of course, because sometimes the creative folk get it wrong.
Thus far, GBBO has been pretty spot on with their treatment of past bakers with disabilities, so I was pretty hopeful the addition of a Deaf baker would follow suit.
Hey, I’d tune in just to gawk at all those Cash Mason bowls. But it’s the HUMANITY that keeps me watching.
There’s a genuine decency to these baking souls. And they seem to listen well.
Ready to find out if GBBO lived up to their rep?! On your marks, get set… BAKE!
Warning this article contains spoilers from the most recent season of the Great British Bake Off – Collection 11, Episode 1. If you prefer to keep the details shrouded under the gingham tablecloth, do not read any further!!!!
Meet Tasha, GBBO’s first Deaf baker
Tasha makes a subtle, yet adorable debut. Opening the episode outside with the tent behind her, she signs and speaks to the camera, “I don’t really know how I got here” with a giggle. We do, girl! You earned your spot.
Tasha has a visible cochlear implant. I point this out because she wears her hair up and the CI is white against her sandy brown curls. That’s intentional. Some of us got sick of hiding ugly, medical-looking hearing aid-y devices and now go for the bold, bright and obvious. Bring on the glitter, man.
Throughout the episode, Tasha speaks for herself and uses a sign language interpreter. She and the interpreter sign in BSL or British Sign Language. For those learning ASL here in the US, you may notice how different it is. It’s a TOTALLY different, foreign language to ASL.
GBBO’s signature style of inclusion
Predictable as Paul Hollywood’s coveted handshakes and the hot weathered chocolate challenges – GBBO is a well-oiled machine. But unpredictable elements in new hosts and judges abound. Heck, there was the kerfuffle of jumping networks a few years back where we lost judge Mary Berry and comedian/hosts Mel and Sue. While we loved them, viewers like me barely blinked an eye, immediately embracing the new crew. So we come to expect smooth adaptations.
Likewise, in the first episode it appears they have included a Deaf Baker and an interpreter into their show in signature style.
As a Deaf person, GBBO’s inclusion of a Deaf Baker sat well with me. It’s an example of a best case scenario when a Deaf person steps into an all-hearing environment.
The GBBO Deaf Baker’s introduction
As they do with all the bakers, Tasha is shown in clips in her work environment in an office and then skiing. Before she worked for a children’s charity in London, the narrator explains, Tasha was a ski instructor in Japan.
We see she also pulls off a mean Paul Hollywood glare. We like her immediately.
They did not say during this episode that she is Deaf or uses a CI. Likewise, they did not say so and so has diabetes, wears a blood sugar monitor and is bilingual.
Better to dig into those details after you know someone awhile, right? Besides, they had 11 other bakers and a new host to introduce!
— British Bake Off (@BritishBakeOff) September 26, 2023
The GBBO BSL interpreter is just right
Interpreters are the assumed go-betweens of two worlds and this fascinates many people. But if too much focus is on the interpreter this can be disempowering because the Deaf person is not seen on their own merits, but as a traveling pair. Or worse, as needing a “helper”. And, if the focus on the interpreter takes over, the Deaf person isn’t seen at all.
Luckily, that didn’t happen here. It seems Tasha had stellar language access and we didn’t learn all about the interpreter. Yay. Also:
The interpreter was placed appropriately throughout the episode.
The interpreter matched the setting (dressed casually in a navy t-shirt/jeans)
The interpreter was acknowledged without making it about them.
British Sign Language (BSL) on GBBO
As comedians work with “material” in their environment, Noel and Allison had a field day learning some sign language in this episode.
They signed “Welcome to the tent!” while introducing the interpreter to the bakers, and “1 hour” for a time call. Obvious novices, they were also studious and respectful, earning an approving glance from Tasha.
Tasha also gave Allison her own name sign which then launched a discussion of Paul’s parrot-like name sign based on the fact she kept calling him “Polly”.
Amusing foreign language banter is nothing new to the tent. Who could forget Sandy sharing her native Danish snippets, or Matt serenading poor Jurgen with his German rendition of the Flintstones theme? It’s a thing.
It appears BSL is now getting its turn in the sun on GBBO.
GBBO Episode 1 baking details
Now for the nitty-gritty: What did Tasha bake?
Tasha is a middle of the pack-er in this ep with some highs and lows. Her signature vertical cake was a mixed bag – tasted good but had some aesthetic funkiness. Her technical bake of the iconic GBBO fudge cake with the missing raspberry had the judges admittedly splitting hairs amongst the dozen. Tasha unfortunately landed in the unenviable 11th spot. But she turned things around with her triumphant showstopper: a large tahini-chocolate-ginger cake in the shape of a robin. Paul’s doesn’t-like-it-he-loves-it reaction was her ticket to the middle field and she is safe for another week. Whew.
Welcome to Week 2 for GBBO’s Deaf Baker
So we get another week of our Deaf baker (at least)! With the novelty worn off, I’m curious to see what’s next for Tasha in week 2 with the first-week nerves outta the way.
I’m also excited. Sometimes hearing people only have very brief exposures to Deaf folks. So it’s nice when they get to know us a little more, especially in a familiar environment such as GBBO – where Deaf representation is celebrated and respected.
Meanwhile, if you’re inclined to give this week’s technical a go – here’s Paul Hollywood’s recipe for the iconic GBBO Fudge cake with the missing raspberry!