You might not have ever picked up a copy of Condé Nast’s monthly food magazine Bon Appétit, but you’ve probably seen at least one of its BA Test Kitchen videos on YouTube. The channel has a cult-like following of over 6 million subscribers: some amateur chefs, others
sick sadists folks who simply like to watch Claire Saffitz slowly unravel as she attempts to recreate foods that just weren’t meant to be replicated in home kitchens (e.g. gourmet Pop Rocks, anyone?).
For many, the BA Test Kitchen channel is a safe, soothing haven on the internet. But just a few hours ago, sh*t hit the fan when old photos showing Bon Appétit’s editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport in brownface resurfaced. Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant editor who has been with BA for 10 months, called him out for the racism, and pretty soon, her name was trending all over Twitter.
the bon appetit staff exposing their company today pic.twitter.com/s8JPHAB7NC
— Mohammed Kloub (@LessIsMoh) June 8, 2020
That’s it, in a nutshell.
The damning photo
The image of Rapoport in brownface had been posted by Simon Shubuck, Rapoport’s wife, on her Instagram feed. In the caption, she calls Rapoport “Papi” and uses the hashtag #boricua — a word many Puerto Ricans use to refer to themselves.
— chez tammie (@tammieetc) June 8, 2020
This wasn’t the first time this photo got the internet’s attention. It had caused a small amount of controversy years ago, but perhaps because the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen didn’t have a cult following back then, or perhaps because the #BlackLivesMatter protests weren’t dominating the headlines, the outrage didn’t catch on.
After a freelance writer posted screenshots of a conversation with Rapoport about how why her pitches for Puerto Rican recipes were rejected, the image in question resurfaced.
What Sohla wrote
In case you’ve missed it: Not only is Sohla one of the only front facing Bon Appetit editors to denounce EIC Adam Rapoport doing brown face, apparently only white BA editors are paid for their video appearances. Here’s her Instagram story just now pic.twitter.com/h0uPMlJYHN
— Sarah Manavis (@sarahmanavis) June 8, 2020
Some may excuse Rapoport as the photo was taken 16 years ago, and a lot can change in that time. Sure.
But this photo was just the tip of the iceberg. In her response to the brownface, Sohla also revealed that only white BA editors are paid to appear on video.
“I’ve been pushed in front of video as a display of diversity,” she wrote in a statement published on her Instagram stories. “In reality, currently only white editors are paid for their video appearances. None of the people of color have been compensated.”
This is crazy because Sohla is arguably one of the most (if not the most) talented chefs on the show. (I mean, we all love Claire, but she can’t even temper chocolate without Sohla’s help. Plus, Sohla turned fricking spaghetti into funnel cake. And she is a joy to watch. How is she not getting paid?)
Sohla’s revelation also implied that other long-time BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) talents on the channel like Priya, Christina, Gaby, and Rick also haven’t been getting paid to appear on camera. What gives?
Also, remember how Rapoport mixed up Priya and Sohla at a live panel?
— Andy Spector (@AndyTSpector) June 8, 2020
Other POC staffers speak out
Many subscribers have pointed out the lack of black chefs in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen. There was Hawa, whose last video was published in February (just in time for Black History Month). But apparently, Hawa hasn’t been with the company since August 2019 — she left after being treated poorly (she was getting paid only $400 a video, which is a pittance in New York City).
hawa also posted about her BA experience in her story, I am honestly so disappointed at how they treated her pic.twitter.com/vDxCi43DTJ
— elle #JunkTerrorBiIINow (@chxtnoir) June 8, 2020
Alex Lau, a former staff photographer at Bon Appetit, revealed that one of the reasons he left was because leadership refused to listen to their BIPOC staffers.
yes, I left BA for multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons was that white leadership refused to make changes that my BIPOC coworkers and I constantly pushed for.
— Alex Lau (@iamnotalexlau) June 8, 2020
“As a person that shot the hot 10 restaurants for multiple years, what made me want to leave was when I saw that year after year, I was only shooting Asian and white chefs,” he wrote. “When I asked ‘why have we shot food all around the world, but haven’t touched the entire continent of Africa?’, their response [was]: ‘Oh you know, the recipes get tricky, and readers probably wouldn’t want to make the food.’ Oh, but you’ll preach the wonders of 3-day long recipes and 60 hour WP stews.”
Test Kitchen talents in full support of Sohla
Fortunately, our beloved chefs at the Test Kitchen showed us that they’re made of the good stuff, as they all spoke out in support of Sohla, starting with Molly Baz:
Molly is making a stand 🙌🏼 pic.twitter.com/fKvWeeHskO
— Pod Appétit: A Bon Appétit Fancast (@pod_appetit) June 8, 2020
The other talents also stepped forward in solidarity:
- Claire Saffitz
- Brad Leone
- Priya Krishna
- Andy Baraghani
- Chris Morroco
- Christina Chaey
- Carla Lalli Music
- Rick Martinez
- Alex Delaney
- Amiel Stanek
Adam Rapoport’s resignation and statement
View this post on Instagram
Rapoport has been with Condé Nast for 20 years. Before he joined BA, he was an editor at GQ.
Just because Rapoport resigned doesn’t mean the fight is over
just a reminder that this isn’t solely a BA problem. this is a conde nast problem. blame roger moore, blame anna wintour, blame all of the people in conde corporate that you’ve never heard of. they are responsible for creating this culture.
— Alex Lau (@iamnotalexlau) June 8, 2020
This issue won’t magically disappear just because Adam Rapoport resigned. Even if they hire a BIPOC editor to replace Rapoport, these problems will pervade unless the culture in Condé Nast changes. Will higher management make real efforts to treat their talents equally, or are we just going to get empty platitudes?
But also: PAY. THEM.
Sending a little love to Sohla El-Waylly and Priya Krishna, two brave, talented people whose work for BA have brought me a lot of joy. @bonappetit please give these women and your other employees of color the treatment and compensation they have earned ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ySR3Bj1Nfx
— ✨Carlgpy✨ (@whirringblender) June 8, 2020
Unless things truly change, it looks like we have no choice but to unsubscribe.
Are you a BA Test Kitchen fan whose world just got turned upside down, just like us? Tell us all about it in the comments.