We are not back in the test kitchen
June 9, 2020 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Adam Rapoport, the editor-in-chief of Bon Appetit has stepped down and most stars of the Bon Appetit youtube channel have refused to appear in further videos pending action after a brownface picture of Rapoport surfaces, Sohla El-Waylly shares information about major pay disparities at BA, and other BIPOC youtube stars share their own stories of poor treatment at BA. (All reddit links as most updates are happening in instagram stories. Current roundup here.).
posted by mosst (96 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I find it more interesting that her working conditions are standard in many industries (low or underpaying, ignoring feedback, uncomfortable/token participation) but only objectionable if the boss has any moral stain.

What you are actually seeing is worker organisation in real time.

I think the brownface photo gave people cover to speak about their own experience, but that's not unusual.

Sohla's worth is not reflected in her pay (she is very talented, which is why the fact that she isn't being paid for her appearances struck such a nerve because surely she was about to have a show of her own), and the Test Kitchen staff have worked out a) they have, or had, a shitty boss (people keep pulling clips of racist and sexist behaviour from him in Test Kitchen videos) and b) they have leverage, both in concrete terms - they can strike, as editor Matt Hunziker did - and in abstract terms - the audience is there for the Test Kitchen, not for the Bon Appetite brand, and if the Test Kitchen walks, Conde Nast loses their investment.
posted by Merus at 4:43 AM on June 9 [27 favorites]


I might be wrong but I don't see Sohla's interview with Buzzfeed on the roundup list, where she goes into a bit more detail.
El-Waylly, 35, said when she applied for the assistant food editor position last summer, she didn't expect to make that much. During the application process, she asked for $65,000 a year. When HR said they only had $50,000 for the position, she took it — even though she's been cooking for most of her life, this was only her second job in media and the description for the position said that she would just be cross-testing recipes.

But soon after she started working at Bon Appétit, El-Waylly said she was quickly asked to do a lot more work than she had signed up for, from tasting dishes to appearing in the test kitchen videos, apparently to help with the brand's diversity problem.

"They were asking me to stand in the background of photo shoots and video shoots which made me super uncomfortable," El-Waylly said. "I was brought on to do this one job and I’ve kind of taken on the role of a senior editor, contributing to all of the verticals in print and video."
Commenters often use the fact that Sohla (and other POC) are often seen in the background of videos/making a little cameo to respond to criticism on the lack of diversity in BA videos. Turns out that's what BA's intention was all along.

also -
Last August, she was sent on assignment to Philadelphia, for a feature with three Black chefs, but because the publication "doesn't have a great history of working with Black chefs," the chefs asked to work with all Black staff, El-Waylly said.

"There was no one on the food team that was Black, so they sent me instead because I'm the darkest one," she said, adding that neither she nor the chefs were given a heads up about the situation. "I arrived and I wasn't Black, and it was very strange for everyone involved."
wtaf?

She's had such bad luck with being a POC in the food industry (serious eats, her restaurant, now this) despite deserving a good one so much more than so many other people. Really hurts.

Also puts in a new light what we thought was her millenial humour about her daily hardcore post-work alcoholic beverage and eating popcorn and crying for dinner.

On a separate note, I've been really impressed by how eloquent Delany and Hunzi have been on talking about this issue (linked in the roundup).
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 4:55 AM on June 9 [32 favorites]


Oh, and here's the timeline of how it all went down.
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 4:58 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I literally don't understand how Bon Appetit could have imagined it was OK to not pay people for video appearances.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:19 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]


Thanks for the buzzfeed link, reddit is blocked by many ISPs in Indonesia.
posted by frumiousb at 5:19 AM on June 9


I'm really glad that Sohla publicized this and that the rest of the Test Kitchen folks are backing her up. I cannot believe (except that I can) that this enormous company was not compensating its BIPOC workers for video appearances. And once that was pointed out, other things which should have been obvious stand out: all the channel's series (like Gourmet Makes and It's Alive) are hosted by white folks, with BIPOC folks getting guest appearances and one-off shows. There aren't any black folks in the regular roster of on screen talent at all.

And just to highlight one particularly egregious thing: Hawa Hassan was compensated $400 per video for her videos on how to cook food from Somalia. For videos that have like half a million views each. That is absurd for a huge company like Condé Nast.

I am so glad to hear that so many of the people there are refusing to work until the pay issues are fixed (including back pay).
posted by JDHarper at 5:25 AM on June 9 [19 favorites]


Hearing that Sohla and Priya were coerced to be on camera both makes sense and makes me sad. I felt that both their test Kitchen videos were an odd fit, mostly because the format didn’t seem an easy fit for either. Now it makes so much more sense. I really hope the two of them especially are heard, seen and compensated more if that’s their wish. Of all the At Home videos I find those two to be the most charming and the videos I look forward to the most.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 5:32 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]




I literally don't understand how Bon Appetit could have imagined it was OK to not pay people for video appearances.

“Exposure” has been an endemic part of media’s shitty pay forever, especially pre-social media. Like, this is an industry where unless your organization has a very unusually strong stance, you arrive at your desk most days to a mountain of free things and where interns take food home because they are starving to work for free (or bankrolled by mum and dad) in order to perhaps one day get hired for $35k.

But I agree this instance is shocking due to its racist undertones and the casual way Bon Appétit treated established talent.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:39 AM on June 9 [17 favorites]


I think the brownface photo gave people cover to speak about their own experience, but that's not unusual.

I think that's what my hangup is. I'm going to be cynical here and say in some sense, this is PR because everyone in the test kitchen was there from start to finish and now they're all pretending to be johnny-come-latelys. There are stars in the kitchen but they were unwilling to use their power unless they were assured of success. Can you successfully organize in 2020 if your boss or institution isn't problematic or racist? I mean yes you can, but the bar seems to be much higher. This situation is very much a silver bullet.

The kitchen organizing around this event is obviously good; take whatever flashpoint you can and hammer home your dignity and your worth, but many places are a little more careful about who they hire, who's in charge and will be increasingly so in the future.

I don't want or mean to come off as a huge contrarian here. What I want is your coworkers to recognize and organize around issues without cover. To see that when you're being underpaid, coerced, and mistreated to actually stand up for you. Yes they're doing that now and it seems counterproductive to say they should have done it sooner but man, it really sucks that you have to be ground into the dirt to get people to notice. Hopefully more workers will take note and use this to act sooner than later.
posted by interior crocodile aligator at 5:41 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


where interns take food home because they are starving to work for free (or bankrolled by mum and dad) in order to perhaps one day get hired for $35k

The day "desirable" industries start compensating interns and new-hires fairly is the day this (slowly) starts to get fixed. It's just not possible to work in these sorts of jobs at the pay being offered (or not offered) without a significant safety net. And, guess what, people with that kind of safety net are, more often than not, completely blind to how much privilege they've floated along on.

Their experience is the only experience. Anyone can work for free. People should pay their dues. Puerto Ricans sure are scary. Exposure is compensation enough.

Fuck this.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:55 AM on June 9 [10 favorites]


From the buzzfeed interview:

El-Waylly said Rapoport raised her salary to $60,000 a year this May after she complained that her pay didn't reflect the work she was doing, adding that she has been angry about how she's been treated for months.

This is after Sohla's cinnamon bun recipe was the cover of the April issue, and she still had to fight for 10k.
posted by Think_Long at 6:14 AM on June 9 [20 favorites]


The publishing industry has been underpaying young women forever.

It's clear from what you can see in the videos that Sohla was won the respect of the other test kitchen chefs.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:48 AM on June 9 [4 favorites]


Rapoport is so clearly a smarmy douche on the BA videos that I couldn't for the life of me understand why he was ever allowed on camera. We would literally skip past anything that he was in. As my wife says, "We never liked him!"

I love their content and I hope for the sake of the employees that they get the reorganization they deserve, there's a lot of talent there.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:57 AM on June 9 [7 favorites]


It's clear from what you can see in the videos that Sohla was won the respect of the other test kitchen chefs.

Or the well paid white "talent" was relying on the underpaid, talented WoC to come do the work for them.

How many times have we seen Sohla get called over to temper chocolate for Claire.

There's a line between "ask the assistant editor to help you out" and "lean on them to do the work for you while you get paid much much more because they know how to do things you don't." They clearly respect her talent, but were any of them saying, "Sohla is really good at this - why is she still an assistant? When does she get her own show?" before her post?
posted by thecjm at 7:05 AM on June 9 [15 favorites]


I started watching the BA youtube channel since the beginning of the lock-down when they were broadcasting from their homes and it seemed clear just by looking at their apartments/homes which members were being underpaid.
posted by cazoo at 7:09 AM on June 9 [17 favorites]


Rapoport is 50, so the extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago was an adult decision.

One form of systemic racism: where interns take food home because they are starving to work for free (or bankrolled by mum and dad). The plutocrats' kids get educational and job opportunities.
posted by theora55 at 7:13 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


The day "desirable" industries start compensating interns and new-hires fairly is the day this (slowly) starts to get fixed. It's just not possible to work in these sorts of jobs at the pay being offered (or not offered) without a significant safety net. And, guess what, people with that kind of safety net are, more often than not, completely blind to how much privilege they've floated along on.

Word. And:

One form of systemic racism: where interns take food home because they are starving to work for free (or bankrolled by mum and dad). The plutocrats' kids get educational and job opportunities.

Word.

This was sort-of fixed in Ontario because labour laws were written to prevent unpaid internships. EXCEPT, and this is a big exception, where they were for school credit. However, I was hiring and supervising interns during that period (mostly afterwards) and I am here to tell you that government policy does make a difference.

I have been sniffling into my tea because I left my media career over some of these things to go into first arts marketing and then fitness, and then Covid-19 laid waste to my bricks and mortar career and I was like wow, I have completely fucked up my life, but this week holy hell is unemployment looking good.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:24 AM on June 9 [8 favorites]


I literally don't understand how Bon Appetit could have imagined it was OK to not pay people for video appearances.

I'm surprised that they were paying anyone extra for this, if others who were paid were earning a salary. Video has become just another part of the job.
posted by pinochiette at 7:24 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


It's great to hear that Rapaport resigned. I always got creepy vibes from his video appearances.

Sohla is a treasure and a bad ass!
posted by stripesandplaid at 7:31 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I seriously doubt Rapaport has lost his job. He 'stepped down' as BA E-I-C, which likely means he's been re-assigned to some other position of leadership at Conde Nast. It's optics, not consequences.
posted by Frayed Knot at 7:36 AM on June 9 [13 favorites]


A quick YouTube search shows Sohla's top 3 (solo) videos have garnered around 3.2 million views. So yeah, not only should there be a well-deserved raise but she needs to get back pay as well.
posted by jeremias at 7:40 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


I love Sohla and this makes me mad for her. I remember first seeing her at Serious Eats, but never heard about any cause of a falling out over there. Anyone know what happened there?

(N’thing the Adam always felt like a smarmy oily dude. I only liked it when they paired him with Molly because she’d throw shade at him always)
posted by drewbage1847 at 7:45 AM on June 9


Sohla is so creative and competent in the kitchen she makes the rest of the hosts look bad. She needs to move into that well-lit office and become the new EIC. In retrospect Brad's fear of his boss is palpable in that clip.
posted by St. Oops at 7:49 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]


He 'stepped down' as BA E-I-C, which likely means he's been re-assigned to some other position of leadership at Conde Nast.

Yeah, this is a classic scenario for teflon-coated white dudes facing consequences. And if, by some miracle, he doesn't return to Conde Nast, some other publisher will gladly pick him up once the heat has died down.

The silver lining here is that all the other on-camera hosts were pretty explicit in their statements that they want pay and title equity, not just the removal of one guy. I'm glad Rapoport is gone, but there had damned well better be some back-pay involved, and whoever replaces him has a lot of work to do.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:54 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately (and unsurprisingly), this isn't the first time Sohla's dealt with racial discrimination in her work. A now deleted tweet around the time she quit Serious Eats:
One day women of color won’t have to choose between tolerating discrimination or quitting their jobs. But not today.
posted by devrim at 7:54 AM on June 9 [14 favorites]


So given that it’s very clear that both BA, SE and the NYT are all featuring white washed versions of cuisines - are they any outlets that people feel do a great job featuring non white guy food? I don’t care about “authenticity” since that’s a wonderfully loaded word. I don’t even care if it’s still dumbed down as long as it tells me what’s dumbed down and why. Should be a low bar to cross I’d hope.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:21 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


drewbage1847 - First We Feast has series like Curry Shop and Gochi Gang that focus on non-white guy cuisine. They're more food 101/restaurant shows than cooking though. Eater has many non-white hosts and featured chefs, including series like Halo Halo and K-Town focusing on Filipino-American and Korean-American cuisine respectively. And if you go back far enough on their YouTube feed you can find the Lucas Kwan Peterson content from before he went to the LA Times. Again, their shows tend to be more informational and less instructional.

The focus for these shows tends to be Asian and Asian-American cuisine - there are entire continents full of food that are still missed.
posted by thecjm at 8:32 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


NPR's Code Switch had a fascinating episode recently exploring Puerto Ricans' racial identity: 76% of Puerto Ricans in the 2010 Census defined themselves as wholly White (down from 81% in the 2000 Census).
posted by Bwithh at 8:41 AM on June 9


Rapoport is 50, so the extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago was an adult decision.

LOL yes, I loved that he wanted to slip in the "16 years ago" to make everyone seem overly sensitive for complaining about it. I tend to give people a pass (probably too much of one!) for things they did about ~15 years ago, because the culture was drowning in a lot of nihilist edgelord trash. But...this only surfaced because his wife posted it as a "fun" Instagram throwback pic six years ago! It's pretty clear they didn't see anything wrong with it until it became an inconvenient visual representation of BA's irresponsible treatment of their nonwhite employees.
posted by grandiloquiet at 8:54 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]


thecjm - I miss Lucas's videos. He was so great at presenting thoughtful takes on the food.

And yeah, food is such a weirdly global and yet intimate thing.My speciality in this world is the beer niche and even that is so varied and complex that there are so many ways to tackle it and talk about it. (It also makes me realize I know very little about non-Euro focused brews outside of say Bia Hoi, Chica and the use of sorghum in Africa.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:59 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I also don't see Illyanna Maisonet's tweets of her convo with Rappaport: https://twitter.com/eatgordaeat/status/1269329628658712576
posted by JawnBigboote at 9:04 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Just chiming in to agree that, yeah, this isn't surprising coming from Rapoport. He simply radiates douchebaggery when he's on camera.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:12 AM on June 9 [9 favorites]




So, last week Serious Eats did their BLM thing, and I wrote in saying they should trying walking the walk and make a public apology to Sohla.

...crickets...

So, fuck Ed Levine too.
posted by aramaic at 9:37 AM on June 9 [5 favorites]


I am reminded of the white women of the lifestyle industry thread from a little while ago. Probably shouldn't be surprised, and yet.

Can someone explain to me the issue about not being paid for the videos? Is it that some employees were getting per-video bonuses on top of their salary? That seems like a weird pay structure from the start. It's not like the video content is new.
posted by quaking fajita at 10:05 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Over the past 10 months, El-Waylly has repeatedly appeared in videos on Bon Appétit's YouTube channel, working on her own recipe videos as well as pilots for series. Throughout, she said she has asked to be compensated for the videos, which staffers are paid for separately through contracts with Condé Nast Entertainment, but it wasn't until after her social media posts on Monday that she was offered a contract.

"Their reasoning for it was always that the people who have contracts are the people who have series, like shows, but all those people who have shows are white and [Condé Nast Entertainment are] the ones who decide who has a show," she said, adding that some of her other colleagues who are people of color also do not have contracts despite appearing in the YouTube videos.


This is taken from the buzzfeed article!
posted by Carillon at 10:10 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Can someone explain to me the issue about not being paid for the videos?

Pay for behind the scenes work and on-camera work are very different. Often if someone is expected to do on-camera work but not as some sort of featured talent, they should get paid a different rate on a per-appearance basis.
posted by tclark at 10:12 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Yeah, to add to that, most of the people who are on-camera at BA started off in a job where they weren't hired to be so. Typically they were hired as junior editors / editors of the magazine, and/or recipe developers, and/or other kitchen staff, and then ended up showing up tangentially in videos and then later pushed to be more front-and-center.

If you watch the older content you can even see some of this progression -- Brad, for example, was the kitchen manager before filming the pilot of It's Alive (which apparently sat un-published for like a year afterwards) and then transitioned into a more explicit front-of-camera role (and Gaby now has the role of kitchen manager, though she obviously also shows up in videos).

I also always assumed that Claire leaving BA but then coming back to do videos (but not under contract) was related to this, possibly her not being happy with the contract but then BA being convinced to hire her on a per-episode basis because her stuff is so popular.

What Sohla is saying is, various white staffers have managed to transition to front-of-camera with explicit pay for that added role, while she was pushed in front of the camera with no added money because BA needed her to help solve the obvious problem of the casts of their videos being nearly entirely white.
posted by tocts at 10:20 AM on June 9 [14 favorites]


N'thng the Rappaport gave creepy douchebags vibes, but I was always willing to forgive him as he was in charge of the BA pivot from dead tree to online, so yeah he's a dick, but he's clearly a dick that grew the brand in a way I enjoy.
Still, fuck him. Also completely unsurprising how well he gets along with Alison Roman.
posted by Keith Talent at 10:23 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Coincidentally, I received the June/July dead-tree issue of BA yesterday afternoon just as all this was going down. Despite the fact that the issue contains an essay by Roxane Gay, single-page features on two PoC in the "Home & Away" section, and a several-page spread on Black chefs in Philadelphia (probably the same one Sohla called out), Rapo's editor's letter only mentions Amiel, Chris, and Brad by name. The only other recipe he specifically calls out is one of Delaney's drinks. I'm pretty sure I would never have noticed that detail if it weren't for this exposure, even though I've thought for years that he's a smarmy asshole.

I hope CN can resolve things to the staff's satisfaction, because I really like the content they produce. I also wonder how they'll address this in the next issue --- if I got a paper copy in the mail yesterday, surely the next issue must be almost ready for the printer? Maybe the fact that the current one is a double issue gives them a little more time than they would otherwise have?
posted by slenderloris at 10:49 AM on June 9 [3 favorites]


I am so impressed that Sohla spoke out like this and so pissed that it took her doing so to see any movement in this area. I adore her videos, she's quickly become one of my favorite test kitchen people, and it shouldn't take someone in that position jeopardizing their whole career to bring light to this kind of thing. Sigh.

But, take note internet overlords: I am itching to buy a Sohla-authored cookbook, her ideas are so interesting and she's so fun and personable.
posted by Zephyrial at 11:26 AM on June 9 [11 favorites]


Claire isn't currently in-house at BA. Her videos appear to be by contract. She's spoken about feeling overwhelmed when she was expected to do video on top of her regular job, so she quit. It appears that in the wake of that, some of them were able to negotiate some kind of deal...if the line is people who have their own "show," that's Brad, Amiel, Delaney, Molly, Chris, Carla, Claire, and Andy. People who appear often but don't yet have a dedicated show are Gabby, Priya, Sohla, Rick...

It's a little different than being paid for exposure, but it's part of a larger trend in media (and I'm sure many other corporate jobs) where salaried, overtime-exempt employees are expected to meet ever-increasing productivity expectations without any extra support, time, or compensation. Video is just one of the more visible versions because it causes people to become famous. But working at a Conde Nast glossy magazine is THE quintessential example of "a million girls would kill for this job."

In my 15 years in the media industry I have met few people who are making their decisions based on anything other than keeping their job. It lowers the quality and breadth of the work itself, and it means people don't stick their necks out for their colleagues (or their freelancers, or their readers, etc) about things like compensation, representation, or even just basic respect. So only the most cynical people rise in ranks. It's a vicious circle. And almost every department has at least one Adam Rapoport--in every sense of what that might mean.

At some point in the past ten years publishers (not sure about other media companies) have had to start paying their interns. A step in the right direction but the effect is minimal. An intern still has to live within commuting distance of Manhattan, a tall order on even a mid-level salary, AND you still have executives and board members leaning on people to hire their nieces or whatever--it's just that the board member's niece who already has a place to stay in NYC now gets paid.
posted by lampoil at 11:32 AM on June 9 [19 favorites]


I only came across Sohla a couple of weeks ago in Brad & Sohla make Dosas. She is brilliant; a real are we going to measure or are we going to cook cook. She is what we treasure in science: a good pair of hands - someone whose understanding of what's going on down there (on the lab bench or in the oven) doesn't need continual input or instructions from a recipe / protocol. Respect!
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:32 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I see a lot of people commenting on reddit that they want to see more traditional ingredients in the BA recipes that draw on foodways from outside the U.S. and Canada.

Full disclosure, this is speaking as a white woman who's lived her whole life in the south and midwest U.S... but I've subscribed to BA alongside Food & Wine and NYT for almost a decade, and I've always appreciated BA's more flexible outlook when it comes to ingredients. (See Sohla's dosa video above).

As a daily home cook in the U.S., the reality is that sourcing spices, produce, and other items that aren't readily available at your regular grocery store is difficult and often quite expensive. F&W/NYT have a much more prescriptive editorial attitude than BA, featuring many more aspirational ingredients.

I still enjoy reading the aspirational recipes, and sometimes I even put forth a special effort to make one of them, but I think it's pretty unrealistic for a home cook anywhere in the world to own a pantry that's ready to cook any recipe from any tradition with only the addition of a few items they can pick up at their regular grocery store. I've always liked that BA's chef-editors seem to recognize that limitation in their recipes and videos.

Has anyone heard if Sohla, Rick, Priya, and Gaby have given any public opinions on that front? (Not that they're not a bit busy, whoof.) The videos, recipes, and cookbooks I've seen from them always seemed to embrace, or at least accept, the fact that not every recipe or ingredient might be completely true to the dish's historical tradition if a cook living in the U.S. or Canada is making it.
posted by slenderloris at 3:06 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Munchies, here's a twitter thread from food writer Javier Cabral on assorted micro/aggressions he experienced working there.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:02 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


more like non appetit
posted by Going To Maine at 4:08 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


This just makes me very sad. The thing with Rapoport is disturbing, but I will chalk that up to him being an insensitive idiot, and maybe more so then than now. Who knows, but yeah, he should step down for that.

However, Sohla and others being taken advantage of so badly, someone needs to be fired for that shit, and not just Rapoport. Systematically taking advantage of minorities to cover up for an institutional lack of diversity doesn’t happen in a vacuum and that cannot solely be the fault of one guy.

Sadly, this sounds to me like the death of Test Kitchen. Not gonna hold my breath on it ever coming back from this.
posted by drivingmenuts at 5:56 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I am.. disappointed but not entirely surprised? that all these messages of support and solidarity from all the Test Kitchen folks seem to have come AFTER Sohla spoke out first - they've been here this whole time, right? When she was hanging out in the background (or occasionally being asked to temper chocolate)? Chris is the Test Kitchen Director now, and Carla was in the past as well IIRC - surely they have/had some level of influence? And it takes the WOC sticking her own neck on the line before everyone else steps up? I understand that everyone is concerned about their job, but I admit this is going to give me some pause the next time I hear about any new BATK content. (Except I would follow Sohla whatever she does next - all of her ideas are so interesting! The "experimental" dessert carbonara! The dumplings with skirts! I would absolutely buy a cookbook from her.)
posted by btfreek at 8:31 PM on June 9 [3 favorites]


all these messages of support and solidarity from all the Test Kitchen folks seem to have come AFTER Sohla spoke out first

Never underestimate the ability of privileged folks to ignore things that don't affect them directly. This is not me excusing them, but I'd bet that they never even considered the matter until she spoke. Fish, water, all that, suddenly "wait, what? What's been happening? Really?"
posted by aramaic at 8:52 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


@aramaic Another part of that may be that many people are loathe to discuss their financial setup vis-a-vis employers. I know that I was raised such that one’s payment arrangements are private business akin to medical info.

Additionally, since I majored in Drama in college, there was a very strong pushback against bragging or otherwise waving one’s good fortune in everyone’s faces. There may be some element of that, as well.

I could just be projecting there, though.
posted by drivingmenuts at 9:34 PM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Business Insider just posted a pretty heavy exposé on the "toxic" culture at Bon Appetit.

Really, really disappointed by this - not just the money or the editor, but the microaggressions and the cliquey and exclusive atmosphere.
Nikita Richardson, a former assistant editor, and Alyse Whitney, former associate editor, both recalled an email sent to employees banning them from the Test Kitchen. They believed it was directed at staffers of color.

One day in early 2017, Richardson and Whitney were chatting with Alex Delany and Brad Leone, two white staffers, about beer in the Test Kitchen studio.

Later that day, Whitney and Richardson received an email from Carla Lalli Music, then the food director and now an editor-at-large. The email instructed the two women, along with other staffers — all hidden from each other via BCC — to refrain from visiting the Test Kitchen again without permission. (In an email, Lalli Music declined to comment on the incident.)
posted by Jeanne at 9:43 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]


From Slate: Delaney has deactivated his Twitter and set his Instagram to private after old Tumblr posts surfaced showing that he once baked a friend a Confederate flag cake.
posted by guiseroom at 11:53 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Delaney has deactivated his Twitter and set his Instagram to private after old Tumblr posts surfaced showing that he once baked a friend a Confederate flag cake.

Delany's statement:
There's an image of a cake depicting a confederate flag that was pulled from my Tumblr from when I was 17.

It goes without saying that this is a despicable symbol that a 17 year-old should understand.

It does not reflect the values that I hold now. I condemn whoever uses or glorifies that flag. But I realize this image does reflect the lack of understanding I possessed at the time. It's shameful. It's not what I am about now. I cannot apologize intensley enough. I know it doesn't cut it, but I am truly sorry. The significance of the failure is not lost on me.
I feel like based on his actions and words through the last few weeks on BLM and now this situation that I can believe this. He was 17 about ten years ago? You don't have to dig that far back to find reprehensible things said by mefites (who were way older than seventeen at the time) which don't reflect what they believe today. Seventeen-year-olds are for the most part ignorant and thoughtless at the best of times, let alone in the cultural environment of ten years ago (not excusing what he's done, to be clear).
posted by womb of things to be and tomb of things that were at 12:28 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


Another part of that may be that many people are loathe to discuss their financial setup vis-a-vis employers. I know that I was raised such that one’s payment arrangements are private business akin to medical info.

It's true, this is a really widespread attitude, and it's really toxic. Not talking about compensation only benefits employers.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:21 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Business Insider posted a pretty well-sourced article on all of the internal racism within BA/ CN from many former and current POC insiders.

One new angle that hasn't really been discussed all that much is how the content of the video branch is SEO driven:

As a result, [Rick Martinez] and others say say, Bon Appétit's top videos involve ingredients familiar to a white American audience: every way to make an egg, or a chef's attempt at remaking Skittles.

"White food is considered the most accessible and 'simple,'" Krishna said in an email. "Especially early on, whenever I pitched a home cooking recipe story featuring non-white food, I felt like I had to work twice as hard to prove that it deserved a place in the magazine."

"We're asked to make mac-and-cheese and baked potatoes and try to put our personal spin on it," Martinez said. "I realize you want numbers, but we would never put out that content to the magazine.

posted by Think_Long at 8:52 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


So my wife and I discovered BA Youtube a year ago and have been enjoying them. I liked the videos so much I sometimes guiltily read the BA Subreddit, which is full of superfans. Like, fanart, fanfiction, slash fiction level superfans. And of course, they are all up in this discussion, and taking deep dives to investigate every angle.

One thing they are discussing over there is the well known history that a year ago Claire was unhappy with her salary with regards to how much traffic she was driving to the magazine, and actually quit for several months. When Conde Nast realized she was (at the time) the most prominent face of their brand and they could not go on without her, it gave Claire leverage to negotiate a return to BA as in independent contractor, with pay that is apparently much higher. Sources in the SR say she gets at least $20K for every video she does now, if not more.

The subreddit consensus is that every prominent video personality is trying to do what Claire did, and even if they like their coworkers, the whole situation is unhealthily competitive in an environment where each video creator feels they are in competition with everyone else.

It's a messed up situation from so many angles, and like a perfect example almost everything wrong with work today. I am astonished at Sohla's bravery, and mostly gratified by the reaction, both within and outside the company. I hope they can all use this to make things a little better.
posted by seasparrow at 9:16 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


One new angle that hasn't really been discussed all that much is how the content of the video branch is SEO driven

The bit about Delaney popping back into the Test Kitchen consequence-free after Carla's email made me think of this, too. I'm pretty sure he was specifically requested to come back and do cameos in the videos because the fans demanded it. (An opportunity not extended to any of the non-white staff members who also received the memo, because they were never given the chance to develop a fan following, and probably wouldn't have developed a fan following even if given the chance because "the fans" love a mediocre white dude (hi, Brad).)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:45 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]




Linked from Magary's piece, this absolute gem of a detail from Conde Nast's town hall on the fallout of this:
Roger Lynch, CEO, just told staff re: pay and diversity "truthfully, if these concerns had been brought up earlier, we could have dealt with them sooner.”
LOL.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:48 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Same thing but with (apparently) more of a direct transcription:
I think if people had used the internal channels and raised concerns about this earlier on, we would've been able to address them.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:51 AM on June 10


Anyone who has ever worked anywhere would guffaw at that.

'Plausible deniability' and 'fear of sticking your neck out' are two of the hidden helpers of our patriarchal, capitalist system. It's easy for the management to hear your request for pay and "look into it" for months/never. It's easy to say they'll "run it up the flag pole" and then...whatever, maybe they do, maybe they don't. It's easy for someone to say, "Oh, well, she's just an assistant right now but we are looking for a way to move her into a role where she will get that [recognition, pay, better benefits]" and that just doesn't happen. And if you press, you have a target on your back. If you press harder, you're fired. Sohla knows that, they all know that, we all know that.

You aren't supposed to and nor are you allowed to discuss compensation. If you are a minority or a woman your odds of getting penalized are way higher than if you are a white dude for asking for more compensation than you are currently getting. And you can never ask for more than the white dude gets. He sets the ceiling. There are no more crumbs higher. You'll get put in your place for asking.

There was clearly some weird ass gatekeeping going on at BA. The insidious thing about all of us existing in a culture of racism and paternalism is that we often might not even know why we are upholding the social norm that we are upholding. We might not even recognize that the little push back we got wasn't fair or right or just or accurate. We just feel it and we go with it...for awhile.

Add me to the chorus of the vibe that Rapoport brought to Test Kitchen was super weird but, also, if you've ever worked in an office environment with white men, not at all unsurprising. I was curious just how douchey he was for the staff to bristle like that about him all the time. And he'd just sweep in like Master of the House and...yeah, he was weird. I vote Gabby for the boss of me.
posted by amanda at 11:14 AM on June 10 [11 favorites]


I read the GQ piece some weeks back about Sohla El-Waylly's restaurant and the industry of restaurant critique which isn't comfortable with brown people cooking white food but is all too comfortable with the reverse. And so when I saw the "Let's cook Dosa's" episode with Sohla and Brad as part of Brad's "It's Alive" series, I was just kind of wondering if she was cool with that, if it was her idea, if she was having fun? That's how I watched the whole episode.... and here we are.
posted by amanda at 11:21 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


It's weird, both here on MetaFilter and on the YouTube comments, people have been so enthusiastic about Sohla and Gaby and Priya especially, not least during the lockdown. Their spirit and energy has been just what many people have needed during this difficult time. It seems like Rapoport and the Condé Nash management haven't acknowledged that at all.

... wait, did I write it's weird? That's just stupid. It's the norm. Women, and specially women of color are invisible, even when they are highly succesful. I hope this will make a change, at least at BA.
posted by mumimor at 1:31 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


Vice has a piece out as well with even more details. The stuff about Alex Delaney goes beyond just the Confederate flag cake, apparently.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:05 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


Oof. The tone in that Vice article. It sounds more than a little snotty about the success of Test Kitchen. Truly, the videos do have a workplace vibe which I really enjoy and it’s an aspect that I pointed out specifically when recommending the videos to friends. But it’s not “The Office.” And I think the Test Kitchen isn’t spoiled and it would enrage me if a tone deaf, racist institution like Condé Nast spoils this little gem by being total, typical tools. Delany is the least of the issues here. He’s average white guy. He’s young and made a sincere apology. Underlings don’t have power in our system and we are all complicit in some way but let’s not lose sight of who holds the power and how that are able and allowed to use it.
posted by amanda at 3:44 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I loved watching the Test Kitchen videos. The personalities of the cooks and the clever editing - the whole thing is appealing and endearing. I feel tremendous kinship to them all and Sohla in particular. She’s so sharp and articulate, so present. I hope they all get good jobs elsewhere because I can no longer patronize Condé Nast.
posted by Jode at 4:18 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


I feel tremendous kinship to them all and Sohla in particular. She’s so sharp and articulate, so present.

While I agree with your overall sentiment (I've been following Sohla since her time at Serious Eats, and I was happy to see her appear in BA videos. I thought it was a good thing that she was being featured more and more.. I'm outraged at how little she's being paid)...

"articulate" is something of a loaded term when used to describe BIPOC.
posted by devrim at 4:50 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


Oof. The tone in that Vice article.

Yeah, it definitely comes off as gleeful about BA being taken down a peg. The stuff about stan culture seems wildly off-base, too. Like, internet stans are why the white EIC wasn't paying POC staff for video appearances? Is that supposed to be my takeaway?

But anyway, I thought it was important to share mainly because it linked to further details about other things Delaney had posted on social media, more recently than the Confederate flag cake from his Tumblr. I can only imagine there's even more that people haven't dug up screenshots of yet.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:42 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I only came across Sohla a couple of weeks ago in Brad & Sohla make Dosas.

I get a weird vibe from that video, although it might just be because Brad is so loud. Sohla doesn't seem comfortable. Also, although I guess I'm not the market they're aiming for, I would really have appreciated a quieter, more methodical preparation than the (apparently?) faux narrative of "dumb guy throws stuff together and hopes things work out."
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:48 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


dumb guy throws stuff together and hopes things work out

That's Brad's whole tired-ass shtick.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:47 AM on June 11 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that dude sucks, and I hate how much the fandom eats up his material. It's a classic tale of failing upward, too. He was originally the kitchen manager, which is now Gaby's job, and if you look back at the pre-Gaby videos it's immediately obvious how bad he was at that job. Nobody can find anything, equipment and ingredients are just stashed around at random. He apparently has never worked in a professional kitchen, and it shows, so you have to ask how the fuck he got the job as kitchen manager in the first place. And as a result of his rank incompetence... he gets an ongoing show all about floundering around and failing at simple tasks, where he gets paid more than any of the women of colour (and I wouldn't be surprised if he gets more than any of the white woman talent, too) who contribute well-constructed content.

It doesn't seem like he's done or said anything problematic, or at least if he has nobody has dug it up yet, but the fact that he's been the face of BA's video content for so long despite his complete lack of any redeeming qualities as a cook is a glaring example of the problems there.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:26 AM on June 11 [4 favorites]


It’s not uncommon to find folks who are teaching fermentation to be a bit loose and free with their teaching and experimentation. For whatever reason, maybe because fermentation feels so much like “controlled rotting”, people freak out over it. So you see a whole style of teaching (and let’s be frank - a whole group of enthusiasts) that gloss right over the science to make you feel good about trying it out. Perfect example of that is Charlie Papazian who helped reinvigorate American homebrewing and thus craft brewing.
posted by drewbage1847 at 8:28 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


mediocre brad
posted by anem0ne at 8:30 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


if you look back at the pre-Gaby videos it's immediately obvious how bad he was at that job.

Talking what are clearly highly edited videos (that this entire discourse has made clear don’t capture the reality of test kitchen life) to assess a dude’s job skills seems like a bad move.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:55 AM on June 11 [3 favorites]


If shit is literally falling off shelves in a highly-edited video, how much worse is the situation off-camera?
posted by tobascodagama at 8:57 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


He apparently has never worked in a professional kitchen, and it shows, so you have to ask how the fuck he got the job as kitchen manager in the first place.

He graduated from ICE, and got an internship at BA. From there he was hired on full-time as an assistant. From there, he was eventually promoted to Test Kitchen Manager. This is not exactly a strange career progression.

Meanwhile: literally half or more of the people in the Test Kitchen have never worked in a professional kitchen, at least not in the way people mean when they say "professional kitchen" (i.e. a restaurant or full-time production bakery/kitchen/etc). Recipe development and food writing are related but not the same thing nor the same skillset. Hell, I'm not sure you could even say that Gaby worked in a professional kitchen -- she also graduated from ICE, has worked as an instructor of various kinds, and has otherwise worked as a private chef.

We get it: you don't like Brad. It feels, however, like you are grasping at reasons to proclaim your dislike of him out of proportion with anything he's actually done, and it's more than a little weird.
posted by tocts at 9:47 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


I subscribed to BA so recently I haven't even received my first issue in the mail, pretty much because of the YouTube channel. I've really been enjoying Sohla's contributions to the "at home" series (not to mention Gabi and Priya [and Priya's parents]) and I had been blissfully unaware of the pay inequities when I subscribed. I like the chefs and work they do, so I really hope the company can rise to their level.

But I'm also cynical about the chances for real change. I really wish it were possible to like things without finding out they're secretly awful. Is every frogurt cursed?
posted by fedward at 9:49 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Andy is now calling out Alex for a past homophobic vine, while others on Twitter are sharing Alex's old sexist tweets. A coworker is also calling out Andy for microaggressions at work.

Insider: Bon Appétit Test Kitchen star Andy Baraghani calls out Alex Delany for a resurfaced Vine that includes a homophobic slur
posted by guiseroom at 10:21 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


I like Brad and his videos. However, it's totally 100% abundantly clear that the key to his success is his goofball personality and his extroverted and very open way with people. It's a personality that—when combined with the one-two punch of being white and male—can carry you very far in life, over bumps and hurdles that would completely founder someone else. It is no surprise to me that he started out in a small role and worked his way up and that his personality is key to that success. I also like Brad because he does definitely seem to be one with the people. He is not pretentious and he's pretty funny most of the time. He's a busy, working Dad and he's not a bad example for how to be in this world. He's also great as a contrast to all the other personalities in Test Kitchen and I believe this contrast actually allows some of them, who clearly are not as bombastic, who are more careful and deliberate in their lives, to shine in a way that not having this little chaos demon around would make more difficult. I had no idea he used to be Kitchen Manager. OMG. Promote this white man out of this position, please! <-- I mean, that is the issue and it will continue to be the issue for awhile. I am guessing that this fact of life is something which Brad is probably wrestling with as well. This one man's success is not a de-facto result of others being purposefully marginalized. But, in aggregate, it is. In a system of white supremacy as culture, it is. It would cost Brad nothing except his own personal sense of himself as a neutral good to speak out. Has he?
posted by amanda at 10:28 AM on June 11 [11 favorites]


Brad reminds me a lot of someone I have worked with on and off who has pretty severe ADHD, even down to little details and ticks.
In the case of Brad, he genuinely seems to like most of his colleagues and care for them.
posted by mumimor at 10:33 AM on June 11 [5 favorites]


Has he?

My experience linking to Instagram is that it's a fool's errand, but yes, he has. Shortly after the initial news about Rapoport broke, he posted in solidarity with his BIPOC coworkers, calling on Condé Nast to make things right.

(It may have been one of Instagram's weird time-limited "stories" things, which I find to be an awful UI but for whatever reason people posting images of text on IG is how things are communicated these days and there's not much I can do about it)
posted by tocts at 10:44 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


The last link (here) in the post has many, if not all, of the staff’s responses, including a couple from Brad.
posted by orange ball at 11:08 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


One thing they are discussing over there is the well known history that a year ago Claire was unhappy with her salary with regards to how much traffic she was driving to the magazine, and actually quit for several months. When Conde Nast realized she was (at the time) the most prominent face of their brand and they could not go on without her, it gave Claire leverage to negotiate a return to BA as in independent contractor, with pay that is apparently much higher. Sources in the SR say she gets at least $20K for every video she does now, if not more.

At least $20k per video! Wow. I don't have much sense for what kinds of money backs up youtube videos, so this really highlights how outrageous it is that they paid Hawa only $400 for her videos.

I looked at their top videos and it seems like Claire averages about 10 times the viewers of Hawa (~5 million versus 500,000), but she gets paid at least 50 times more than her per video. That's not even taking into consideration that those view counts are obviously influenced by who the brand promotes, and that even Claire is probably still underpaid related to what Conde Nast makes off her videos.
posted by Emily's Fist at 11:28 AM on June 11 [7 favorites]


I looked at their top videos and it seems like Claire averages about 10 times the viewers of Hawa

Not that I have anything to say against Claire's videos, but I wonder how different that might be if Hawa had been given as much promotion as Claire has had.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:11 PM on June 11 [2 favorites]


In addition, Claire's been building an audience for years while Hawa was just getting started.

Which is also a reasonable argument for Claire being paid more than Hawa, but not 50 times more! And it's not an argument AT ALL for Hawa getting paid so insultingly little.
posted by Frayed Knot at 6:55 AM on June 12 [4 favorites]


At least $20k per video! Wow. I don't have much sense for what kinds of money backs up youtube videos

I suspect no-one else is pulling the kind of money Claire pulls for Gourmet Makes; she's unquestionably the main draw of the channel, and she also openly hates doing the show. (This blowup does give her a great way to exit the show without upsetting people.) Outside of the hits, there's no money in YouTube. It's kind of hard to pay everyone for their work equally when YouTube doesn't even get close to paying equally.
posted by Merus at 4:09 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


Sources in the SR say she gets at least $20K for every video she does now, if not more

I can't find a reference to this, do you have one?
posted by STFUDonnie at 4:39 AM on June 13


I can't find a reference to this, do you have one?

In case you missed or don't recall the context of my original comment, this is gossip from the Bon Appetit Subreddit, and was reported by me that way. Honestly, it may also be from the other BA Subreddit, I have trouble telling them apart, sometimes. Both of them have over 30K members.

You will find many like-minded people over there also asking, "Where is the official source for this confidential salary information, in MLA citation format, please?"

And many more people saying that of course BA isn't going to publish that, but they read it on Twitter from a Production Assistant on the show, and more people chiming in saying they are online advertising executives, and $20K is a reasonable or even low number for the amount of traffic Claire is driving to the site. And other people saying their brother is the lawyer who helped negotiate Saffitz's new contractor salary, etc. So, basically typical Reddit.

But I thought it was interesting and plausible enough to bring to the conversation here, and also gleefully wanted to point people to the subreddit, which is full of glorious BA fan art and fan fiction and other mostly cheerful and sunny BA superfan creations. For starters, the old subreddit banner before COVID and the current racism blowup was just lovely.

Hey look, I just glanced over my answer and without the visual confirmation of my smile and body language, it could be interpreted as a little snarky and hostile. I assure you that wasn't my intent, so please give me the benefit of the doubt, just as I assume your intent was honest inquiry and your question was not actual sea-lioning. I struggle sometimes with online expression where maybe my written words don't accurately reflect my heart. As do we all. :(
posted by seasparrow at 8:03 AM on June 13 [4 favorites]


Hah, no sea lioning here but I’ll admit I asked because I genuinely have a hard time believing it. Thanks for clarifying!
posted by STFUDonnie at 8:41 AM on June 13 [1 favorite]


The NYT covers the mess: A Reckoning at Condé Nast. It includes this amazing gaffe from the CEO:

In November, after she had spent four months working for him, Mr. Lynch called Ms. Jones into his office and handed her “The Elements of Style,” a guide to standard English usage by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Mr. Lynch said he thought she could benefit from it.

With its suggestion that her own language skills were lacking, the gift struck Ms. Jones as a microaggression, the people said. A few days later, she quit. Before leaving the headquarters at 1 World Trade in Lower Manhattan, she placed the book on his desk.

Mr. Lynch said he hadn’t meant to insult Ms. Jones, who declined to comment for this article. “I really only had the intention — like every time I’ve given it before — for it to be a helpful resource, as it has been for me,” he said. “I still use it today. I’m really sorry if she interpreted it that way.”
But wait, there’s more! While Anna Wintour was given credit internally for hiring Radhika Jones to lead Vanity Fair, not everyone was happy with her choices:
In particular, Susan Plagemann, the chief business officer of Condé Nast’s style division, challenged Ms. Jones at length, saying the plan would be difficult to sell to advertisers. To defuse the tension, Ms. Wintour banged her fist on the table, saying, “We need to move on,” according to the three people who were at the meeting.

Ms. Plagemann, who is white, joined the company in 2010 as Vogue’s chief business officer and worked closely with Ms. Wintour; in 2018, she was elevated to her current job. Three people with knowledge of the matter said she was vocal about her negative view of Vanity Fair under its new editor.

She had criticized Ms. Jones’s choices of cover subjects, telling others at the company that the magazine should feature “more people who look like us,” two of the people said. A third person said he had heard her use words expressing a similar sentiment. All the people said they interpreted the phrase and similar remarks as referring to well-off white women who adopt an aesthetic common among the fashion set.
It’s worth a read.
posted by fedward at 10:15 AM on June 14 [3 favorites]


The newest episode of The Sporkful podcast covers this, with a substantial interview from a couple of days ago with Sohla. Highlights include her recounting of an all-staff Zoom meeting after the brownface photo became public, where Rapoport gave a few sentences of mushy apology, then after an awkward pause tried to move the meeting to the next topic. Sohla interrupted with: "Absolutely not. I think it's crazy that you think you can do anything now but resign." On her white coworkers: "Molly sent me a heartfelt email acknowledging [...] her complacency... but then there's people like Brad who I genuinely think just found out that racism is real."

Also, as a side note, Hawa's Digaag Qumbe recipe is excellent - straightforward, flavourful, uses mostly pantry staples. I made it a while ago, skipped the potato and served it on spinach (we're low-carbing) - but be sure you have it with a banana.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:20 PM on June 14 [8 favorites]


I feel like I should be sending cash monies to Sohla.
posted by aramaic at 6:55 PM on June 14 [1 favorite]




Matt Hunziker has been suspended in what seems like pretty obvious retaliation for his public criticism.
posted by JDHarper at 5:28 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


Sheesh. BA is about to get super cancelled.
posted by amanda at 5:53 PM on June 25


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