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A Reckoning At Bon Appétit

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Jun 13, 2020
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We're doing something a little unusual this week: covering breaking news. That's because there's big upheaval happening in food media, and in particular at Bon Appétit, the glossy magazine and creator of the wildly popular YouTube videos from the BA Test Kitchen.

In short, a racist photograph of the magazine's editor-in-chief surfaced on Monday, June 8. Then one of the staffers, Sohla El-Waylly, publicly aired her story of being marginalized and underpaid, compared to white colleagues. Two days later, an article by Rachel Premack in Business Insider detailed pay inequities between white and POC staff, as well as racist remarks by the editor-in-chief and mistreatment of people of color. In response, some of the white BA staff members have apologized and said that they won't film any additional videos until the pay inequities are resolved. (Most of their statements are available on Instagram or Twitter.)

In this episode, Rachel Premack walks us through what happened at Bon Appétit and its parent company, Condé Nast. Then we talk with Nikita Richardson, a former editor at the magazine. Nikita is black, and she recounts a specific time when she was asked to stop being "disruptive" in the BA Test Kitchen. "Being the only black person on staff, everything is just magnified," she tells Dan. "And it makes you think, well who said this about me? Why did they say it? What did I do specifically? And when people can't offer you specifics, then it feels like your behavior is being called out not because you did something wrong, but because it's you who did it."

Finally, we talk with Sohla El-Waylly. "I was just filled with so much rage and frustration with this job," she says. "I feel like honestly a lot of my white colleagues may have just discovered that racism still exists."

Adam Rapoport and Matt Duckor, who directed much of the video programming at Condé Nast, declined to be interviewed for this piece. We sent representatives at Condé Nast a list of questions, but they did not respond as of this publication.

A small correction: In the interview, Rachel Premack says that Ryan Walker-Hartshorn's base salary was $35,800. She previously reported in Business Insider as $35,300.

We couldn't cover all of the many stories of mistreatment at Bon Appétit that have come out in the last week, so here are some links to tweets and articles that will fill you in.

- BA editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport's essay, "Food Has Always Been Political," posted May 31

- Freelance food writer Illyanna Maisonet's tweets about BA rejecting her pitch about Puerto Rican food, and follow-up tweet posting her conversation with Adam Rapoport

- Freelance wine writer Tammie Teclemariam's tweet with the racist photograph

- Nikita Richardson's tweets about her experiences at Bon Appétit

-Tweets by current BA employees Jesse Sparks and Joseph Hernandez and BA contributor Priya Krishna

- Tweets by former BA editor Alyse Whitney and former BA staff photographer Alex Lau

- Insider article about Alex Delany's Confederate flag cake (when he was 17) and homophobic Vine video

- Jezebel article about the way POC were marginalized at Bon Appétit

- New York Times article about Condé Nast VP Matt Duckor's resignation

- Soleil Ho's article on BA’s race problem

- BA staffers and contributors who have issued statements on their Instagram pages: Carla Lalli Music, Claire Saffitz, Molly Baz, Brad Leone, Christina Chaey, Amiel Stanek

- Statement from Bon Appétit and sister company Epicurious after Adam Rapoport's resignation

- Screenshots of Sohla El-Waylly's Instagram Stories calling for Adam Rapoport's resignation and equal pay

- Adam Rapoport's resignation statement

This episode contains explicit language.

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

- "Brute Force" by Lance Conrad

- "Iced Coffee" by Josh Leninger

- "Pong" by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt

- "Brand New Day" by Jack Ventimiglia

- "Midnight Grind" by Cullen Fitzpatrick

- "Hang Tight" by Hayley Briasco

- "Kenny" by Hayley Briasco

- "Rooftop Instrumental" by Erick Anderson

Photo courtesy of Emma Morgenstern.

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