Last year in the lead-up to Thanksgiving, I pushed the Bon Appetite Test Kitchen YouTube channel. A lot. It was new to me and I enjoyed it very much. I did not know or realize that behind the curtains it was a racist shit-show.
BA was always very bougie to me and in that ’80s way. So I never paid attention to it until last year when a friend got hooked on the BA Test Kitchen videos, and well, so did I. And I was surprised by the diversity of the shows and the way that the BA brand had evolved such that it wasn’t just food porn for yuppies anymore. I thought this was something I could endorse.
I’ll tell you something else: the only chef on there is Sohla El-Waylly. Her skills and technique are culinary school perfect. I would guess that the rest don’t have formal training, and some clearly never worked in a restaurant, either; it really makes you wonder how they got their jobs. It is part of what made the shows work because you could see all skill levels and if they could do it, you could too.
In the videos, Sohla is often asked by the white cooks to bail them out. They marvel at her technical know-how; the videos where she is featured are always my favorites. It’s not just that she knows what she’s doing, she’s really fun and brings her tattooed arms and punk-ish sensibility into a very white space. She’s the one you want to have as a friend.
Other people of color in the BA Test Kitchen were also sidelined. LatinX Gabby who ran a restaurant now manages the pantry; she took over that job from larger-than-life personality Brad Leone who was pushed into being a featured star and one of the break-out stars. LGBTQ LatinX Rick is constantly pigeon holed into Fiesta Cuisine. Christina Chaey, Priya Krishna, and other cooks on the show from ethnic backgrounds are similarly put into their own lanes; Andy Baraghani is the only person of color to have his own “show.”
Of the Test Kitchen’s 10 to 15 most regular on-screen contributors, nonwhite faces include the contributors Krishna and Martinez, the test-kitchen manager Gaby Melian, and the editors Andy Baraghani, Christina Chaey, and El-Waylly. None of them, save for Baraghani, have their own show – meaning they’re not eligible for lucrative contracts.
I wish I had been paying attention to what was right in front of me. This was my own white privilege that I didn’t see it.
Anyway, the comeuppance to their terrible editor is now finished with his resignation, the white stars of the show rallied around Sohla (and other BIPOC) and said that they would not do any more videos until Condé Nast made some structural changes. Condé Nast has made a very public apology and is vowing to fly right.
I want to keep an eye on this story.
UPDATE 1: Another resignation and one more probably on the way –
Matt Duckor, who oversaw lifestyle programming for Condé Nast Entertainment and was one of the leaders behind Bon Appétit’s popular videos, has left the media giant. Business Insider reports that Duckor’s departure was announced in a letter from Condé Nast Entertainment president Oren Katzeff. (Duckor confirmed the news to the Times.) Following the resignation of editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, Duckor was criticized by the magazine’s contributors and staffers for issues of compensation for BIPOC employees as well as fostering an environment that discouraged diversity. One Twitter user also surfaced old tweets of Duckor’s making jokes that many saw as homophobic.
Duckor held one of the most important behind-the-scenes positions at Bon Appétit, where he started in 2011. He’s been at Condé since, including a stint at sister property Epicurious (which was eventually brought under the BA umbrella) from 2014 to 2017. He was one of the chief figures behind Bon Appétit’s wildly popular “Test Kitchen” videos, which attract millions of viewers. “Test Kitchen” fans were among those calling for Duckor to resign, with additional attention focused on Bon Appétit drinks editor Alex Delany over a Confederate flag cake he posted to his Tumblr in 2010, a homophobic Vine video from 2013, and sexist tweets from 2012 and 2013. Delany apologized for the Confederate flag cake, calling it “shameful” on his Instagram Story.
UPDATE 2: And here’s the story on the cake. Not including it here because: D’uh.
Another user tweeted a screenshot of a photo of a Confederate-flag cake posted to the Bon Appétit assistant editor Alex Delany’s Tumblr account. He and his friends made the cake, the post said, as a send-off for a friend who was moving to South Carolina. Delany apologised on Tuesday, noting that the image was posted when he was 17. “I cannot apologise intensely enough,” he said.