Understanding the ‘Bon Appetit’ Drama That Just Went Down

There are two types of people in this world. Those who are obsessed with “Bon Appetit” Test Kitchen YouTube videos, and those who are really confused right now about why a food magazine is one of the biggest trending stories in the world.

Here’s what you need to know about what happened at this wildly popular YouTube channel.

Test Kitchen Staff
Bon Appetit

The Inciting Incident

On Tuesday night, an old social post by (now former) editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport’s wife came to light. It showed the couple wearing costumes meant to portray stereotypical New York Puerto Ricans. Although Rapoport insists that he was not actually wearing “brownface” makeup, it’s still a deeply problematic look. He is a very pale white man in everyday life, so it seems likely that at least a large of amount of sunless tanner or bronzer was involved.

There’s no reason that a professional, well-educated man in his 30s (as Rapoport was at the time) should think it’s okay to dress up as a minority for a costume.

We’ve seen multiple white people in positions of power get raked over the coals for their past racial transgressions. Among them are Jimmy Fallon, who owned up to a “Saturday Night Live” sketch from 2000 where he appeared in blackface as Chris Rock.

Over at the New York Times, editorial page editor James Bennet resigned over green-lighting an op-ed from Tom Cotton encouraging the president to “send in the troops” against peaceful Black Lives Matter. The editor-in-chief of Refinery29, Christine Barberich, was forced to resign after multiple accusations of racist conduct.

In other words, this was not the week to have your questionable past come to light. But if it had been one lapse in judgment, perhaps Rapoport could have kept his job.

Instead, his wife’s social media post became the tipping point for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) employees to speak out.

Sohla El-Waylly Has Had Enough

The social media post drew immediate ire, not just from fans of the magazine and channel, but from “Bon Appetit” employees. Sohla El-Waylly, a relatively new hire at the magazine and a breakout star on their video channel, called out her boss in the most public way.

She blew the lid off the pressure cooker of racism, including diminished opportunities and lower pay, behind the scenes. El-Waylly (who has Bengali heritage) demanded her boss’s resignation, both to his face during a Zoom crisis meeting and again on her Instagram Stories post.

She revealed that only the chefs who had their own “shows” and contracts with Condé Nast Entertainment, as opposed to “Bon Appetit” were paid for video appearances. And only white chefs had their own shows.

Claire Saffitz, who hosts the popular “Gourmet Makes” show, reportedly makes $20,000 an episode. Sohla El-Waylly earned $50,000 a year for her work both behind the scenes as a recipe developer and in front of the camera.

El-Waylly’s colleagues–including fellow BIPOC Priya Krishna, Rick Martinez, and Christina Chaey–stood by her in calling for Rapoport’s resignation. Within hours, he was out.

What Comes Next?

“Bon Appetit” magazine, as well as Condé Nast as a whole, has committed to doing better. They have promised to hire more BIPOC–in front of the camera, behind the scenes, and in the boardroom. And they also promise to compensate those employees and freelancers fairly.

As of right now, we don’t know if or when the YouTube channel will start airing new videos. Nor do we know how these changes will alter the type of content we get to enjoy.

For die-hard fans of the channel, which served as a bright spot for millions of viewers, the drama this week has served to show that systemic racism is everywhere. Even the Test Kitchen.