The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen: A Cautionary Tale of Performative Activism

So my last article, “4 Reasons I Love 'Bon Appétit' & Why You Should Too,” did NOT age well. ICYMI, that article was all about how I love the Bon Appétit test kitchen because it allows me to enjoy cooking instruction in a fun, relatable way that reminded me of some of my best childhood memories. In that article, which was published in March 2020, I broke down all the reasons I think more people should be watching and reading B.A. content. 

Unfortunately, in early June, right when I was perfecting my own chocolate chip cookies while in quarantine, a photo of Bon Appétit’s Editor-in-Chief, Adam Rapoport, surfaced online. In the photo, Rapoport was dressed in an inappropriate Halloween costume stereotyping Puerto Ricans. B.A. staff and fans of the magazine alike were outraged. It became the perfect time for Black and POC staff members to share their complaints with the "toxic environment” created by Rapoport and other senior leadership and bring to light the many ways BIPOC staffers at Bon Appétit had been treated unequally when compared to their white counterparts. 

The first person to speak out was beloved on-camera chef and editor, Sohla El-Waylly, who took to her Instagram story to post about how she had not received any additional compensation for her appearances in videos for the Bon Appétit YouTube channel. She also explained that she was declined an on-air contract multiple times when she asked Rapoport and Matt Duckor, head of video programming.

In a statement given to Business Insider, El-Waylly said "There is a big difference in terms of how they monetarily value the white employees versus the people of color.” This statement was further proven to be true when Duckor offered to only add an additional $20,000 to her contract when white on-camera talent was earning much more than that for their appearances. The rest of the B.A. editors and contributors that have helped make the brand successful with their video appearances stood with Sohla and their POC colleagues by publicly stating that they wouldn’t appear on camera until these pay discrepancies were resolved.  

But Bon Appétit is more than just a YouTube Channel. First and foremost, it's a magazine that has a history of creating content that caters to its mostly white audience by refusing to diversify the stories, chefs and restaurants they feature, while simultaneously white-washing ethnic recipes. Rapoport said in a May newsletter, “Food is inherently political.” So why wasn’t he ever willing to use his platform to make a political statement by showcasing content that reflects the diversity that’s present not only in the food industry but in the world that we live in?  Why didn’t he care to provide equal pay for the Black and POC members of his staff in an attempt to make a statement about the unequal pay that is, unfortunately, standard everywhere? 

The pay inequity of Sohla and other POC employees and whitewashed content is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems that BIPOC staff members face at B.A. I would highly recommend reading Business Insider’s in-depth article about just how harmful the Bon Appétit culture has been, as they spoke to “14 current and former contributors or employees at Bon Appétit. All identify as people of color." Even if you don’t particularly care about Bon Appétit, it’s still an interesting read about the dangers of having all white, primarily male leadership, and how pervasive microaggressions truly are, especially in the workplace. 

As of August 7, four non-white chefs, Priya, Sohla, Gabby, and Rick, along with white editor, Molly Baz, have all ended their contracts with Condé Nast’s entertainment division. This is because after months of public silence and behind the scenes "negotiations," leadership still refused to provide fair and equal payment to BIPOC video talent. It seems like the B.A. Test Kitchen YouTube channel as we once knew it is gone, and I don’t plan on supporting them anymore. The company was handed an opportunity to address these issues and publicly correct them, but instead, they opted for making lofty statements on social media with no real actions behind them. B.A. and Condé Nast hoped that their public “wokeness” would allow them to sweep this issue under the rug and get back to business as usual, but that isn’t good enough anymore. Now more than ever, people want to ensure that they're consuming ethical media and they aren’t willing to blissfully ignore inequality behind the scenes. Bon Appétit and Condé Nast’s performative activism effectively killed the most popular and lucrative branch of the brand. 

I originally thought about having my article about my love for Bon Appétit deleted, but I decided to write this article in an attempt to address the fact that we can change our opinions when new information becomes available. Do I still love the chefs and the recipes that Bon Appétit brought into my life? Yes (Alex Delaney not included— that’s a whole other issue). I look forward to supporting them in any solo endeavors they have and testing any recipes they might publish. Do I plan on supporting new Bon Appétit video content anytime soon? Sorry, it’s a no from me.