Bon Appetit’s editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned after a day-long racist debacle

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I have a question for all of you at-home cooks and regular peeps: are all of you just secretly spending hours watching Bon Appetit and New York Times-associated chef videos? I’m asking because I’m shocked by the general public’s knowledge of people like Alison Roman and Sohla El-Waylly. To me, the people on Food Network and The Cooking Channel are super-famous, for sure, but chefs for hoity-toity food publications are famous too? Anyway, Alison Roman’s white nonsense was only the appetizer. Now we have the main course: over the course of a day, we learned that Bon Appetit’s editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport did “brownface” back in the day AND he doesn’t compensate his non-white employees for BA videos and he only pays white people properly. And then by the end of business Monday, Rapoport resigned. First, the “brownface” photo:

YIKES. Then on the heels of that, Sohla El-Waylly, “a chef and restaurateur who was hired last year as an assistant editor at Bon Appetit and has appeared in the BA Test Kitchen video series” called out Rapoport on her Instagram Stories, saying that only white BA employees are compensated for making BA Test Kitchen videos, and that she was hired to “assist” white people who had less experience than her:

After that, BA senior food editor Molly Baz posted on her social media: “Please let it be known that I stand with my family @bonappetitmag and do not support the behavior of our current editor in chief. I WILL NOT APPEAR IN ANY VIDEOS ON BON APPETIT UNTIL MY BIPOC [Black, Indigenous, and People of Color] COLLEAGUES RECEIVE EQUAL PAY AND ARE FAIRLY COMPENSATED FOR THEIR APPEARANCES.”

A few hours later, Rapoport resigned from the EIC position after ten years at Bon Appetit. He admitted to having a “blind spot” when it comes to inclusion. Which is utterly bizarre to me that FOOD PEOPLE – professional food writers and professional chefs – could have such blind spots, especially given that so many chefs are merely putting “their own spin” on other cultures’ food.

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Photos courtesy of Getty, IG.

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49 Responses to “Bon Appetit’s editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned after a day-long racist debacle”

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  1. a says:

    The BA Youtube channel is really, really popular and has become bigger than the magazine itself. They have live events, merch … it’s a big deal. Sohla is forever dipping into other hosts’ videos to help them out with their technique so it’s shocking to read that she wasn’t being properly compensated.

    Carla seems to have got lost in this backlash. She was in a position to make changes but apparently wasn’t receptive when issues regarding the representation of BIPOC were brought to her attention.

  2. CROWHOOD says:

    I thought I was Deep into the food culture, but I didn’t know half of the people that have been called out.

    The awesome part is now I know Who to avoid and have gained some great new voices to follow.

    The thing I noticed about my social media was that it’s basically celebrities, people I know in real life, and “makers” (chefs/diy/home design/crafters). I am white. I had White, black and brown celebrities I followed. White, black, and brown people I knew In real life. But my creators- those 100-150k follower type accounts- almost all white. In actively seeking to change that, my social media has exploded with new to me shops and ideas. It also made me realize that those 100k-200k accounts are the people that benefit the most from increased page traffic for affiliate links and brand growth.

    Not sure what my point is, just I guess that we should all be looking at ourselves.

  3. vexa says:

    The Bon Appetit Youtube vids have literally been my lifeline in lockdown – I don’t even watch them for the recipes, really, I watch them to see the chefs hanging out and having fun. It’s like a real life Parks and Rec. They have a really big online fandom, and Sohla is absolutely a ‘fan favourite’. She’s a very prominent ‘cast member’ and is in a lot of the videos, which I understand make BA a TON of money. The BA ‘fandom’ were absolutely furious to learn she – and the other staff members of colour – were being treated so terribly. I’m glad that Rapoport resigned; hopefully Sohla and co get the back pay that they deserve.

    • SarSte says:

      Agree. I loved Sohla at Serious Eats and was so excited to see her move to BA – I’ve been wondering to myself for a few months when she was going to get her own show… This was truly so heart breaking to read that comments from her and Alex Lau. I was thinking though, this is Conde Nast… Should I really be surprised? Glad Rapoport resigned but exponentially disappointed in Carla and her lack of action from her position of power. I hope things change. I hope they make things right.

      • Penguin says:

        Always hated Rapo, he always took enjoyment out of “jokingly” putting down people in the videos. Glad he’s gone.

      • SarSte says:

        @Penguin – YES. Just straight up rude about people’s efforts, trying to put them in their place. Hosts always got really nervous if he walked through their video while filming. I know it’s your boss and that’s probably normal, but it didn’t really seem to reflect the buddy-buddy environment they were trying to portray.

      • Penguin says:

        I remember the first time I saw him was in one of Brad Leone’s videos. It’s a running joke that Brad mispronounces things and comes across as “unrefined”, but Rapo walked in with a guitar and was an absolute d… to him and kept putting down his accent and pronunciation. It was deeply uncomfortable.

    • milliemollie says:

      Yes, Sohla has been in so many videos and she should have had her own series by now. Brad, Claire, Carla, Chris and Molly all have their own thing. I’ve seen lots of comments with people expressing Sohla should have her own series for months and now we know who was in the way of that happening.

      • Carobell says:

        I just can’t believe she hasn’t been getting PAID for her appearances. The existence of the BA YouTube channel demonstrates that someone on the staff is social media savvy. Did they not notice that she is a favorite? That she does more interesting things? I love her content and now feel terrible that she isn’t being paid for her work. It just taints the whole channel for me.

      • Bucketbot says:

        I think a few weeks back, someone said that Sohla is soon going to get her own show. I don’t have the source info unfortunately. I feel bad for her. She’s been through a lot of shit. First at Serious Eats, now here.

        And yeah Kaiser, I don’t think I’m ever going to make a BA video recipe, but I’m a fan of Clair Saffitz and mainly watch for her, in between I watch other chefs also. I just good timepass. Especially now. They get about a million views in a day sometimes. It is a big deal on YouTube.

      • milliemollie says:

        I feel bad, too. I really enjoy the videos with her in it and I stupidly assumed she would make money like her colleagues.

      • Penguin says:

        I’m mystified as well. She’s been in every Test Kitchen At Home video they’ve published. Absolutely insane that she wasn’t paid for that.

  4. hindulovegod says:

    I’m mystified. After the initial racist debacle, I looked up an Allison Roman recipe. It was an underspiced vegetarian stew. Bland and boring. I’ll stick with Chetna Makan, thanks.

  5. Erinn says:

    Ahhh. I don’t watch any Food Network shows – I actually LOATHE that kind of thing. But I’ll watch hours of people cooking on youtube. I hate watching the over sanitized boring basic ass personalities on food network – I’d rather watch people who are either doing something weird / interesting or who are just less well known or quirkier or whatever. I have always found that the food network (very much like HGTV in a way) is targeted towards the minivan majority Karen types, or at least that’s what it seemed when I had cable. I want to watch those shows just as much as I want to watch some religious lady slap shiplap on every goddamn house they renovate. It is SO boring.

    I’ve watched some Bon Appetit over the last few years. More Claire and Brad videos than the others, though, and some Matty Matheson ones talking about lobster rolls and burgers. We actually seriously upped our burger game by watching this channel. I used to love “You Suck at Cooking” because it’s so silly. We watch Julian Solomita cook stuff too – and neither me nor my husband are vegans, but he’s so SOOTHING to watch. I think we’re just both in love with him at this point ahah.

    I don’t know if it’s my monitor, or what. But I wouldn’t have ever looked at that photo and thought “brown face”. It looks like a poor quality photo and he looks badly sunburned – which is what I initially thought before reading the story. I just figured it was a really bad vacation photo – he’s naturally a lot deeper toned than I am, so I guess I just assumed it was the result of too much sun. But knowing what’s up with this – I’m really glad that so many people stood their ground. And I really appreciate Molly putting her comments out there as well, because I’m sure they didn’t want to lose some of their talent over this. And at the end of the day – their bottom line is what is going to make things change, sadly. If they think that someone will walk or that they will go to another channel or whatever, I think it puts some fear into the bosses. But it SHOULDN’T take that much to get them to understand.

    • Marianne says:

      I agree. I think without context I wouldn’t have guessed it was a brown face photo. It looks like the photo is overexposed, not makeup.

    • Aang says:

      Erinn I didn’t see makeup either. Looks like his nose is sunburnt though. If he wore those clothes to a costume party and not as just normal clothes maybe that’s the issue? But I’ve never heard of him before so I don’t know his vibe.

      • May says:

        Many of his friends commented on the intial post calling him “papi” and that his and his friend/wife’s “costume” was SOOO realistic that they actually feared for their lives. There were many other comments like that so it’s safe to say that it was brown face.

      • Erinn says:

        And that’s just it, May. Once the context was apparent it was very much an “OHHHH SH-T!” moment for me. It’s horrifying. But when you’re just quickly scrolling through, I can see why someone might not notice right away because I definitely didn’t – it just looked like a guy in baseball clothes with a sunburn on first glance.

        And I just want to be clear – I’m in no way excusing what he did or trying to minimize it. Just sharing my initial reaction and the surprise and horror that followed.

    • ReginaGeorge says:

      Agree. As a Puerto Rican from NYC myself, he is dressed like the average person my age (of various races) who live within the 5 boros and that has been out in the summer. I don’t know this guy and I would have assumed he was a NYC Italian-American, though. Not PR. And it looked like it was his friends making bigoted comments….
      But if the background story to this pic is that he doesn’t usually dress this way, and purposefully did this to mock PR/Latinos, then that’s disgusting .

      • Sunday says:

        That’s exactly what the back story is – he dressed up as Puerto Rican, like it’s a costume. His friends were saying they “feared for their lives” because the costume was so realistic and he and his wife were very much in on the joke.

        Yes, he’s dressed completely normally and if you saw someone dressed like him just walking around the city you wouldn’t think twice. The point is, to him and his friends, this wasn’t a normal outfit, it was a costume put together to mock that exact image we both recognize. He’s literally LOLing at this segment of NYC culture; it’s racist, classist, and not even a good costume. Good riddance!

      • ReginaGeorge says:

        Ugh. Such gross people. Glad he’s getting cancelled then. And if he still lives in NYC, he should promptly GTFOH and take his racist friends with him. NYC is not the place for him.

      • thaisajs says:

        I had no idea who this was and when I originally saw the photo I couldn’t figure out what the problem was because he just looked like an ordinary sunburned guy? I didn’t realize it was a costume and there was some kind of makeup situation going on. Thanks to everyone for explaining this cause I was confused.

        Glad the folks at BA stood up to this and shared their stories.

  6. terra says:

    I always got weird vibes about Rapoport. Something about him just always felt off. Good job, gut, you strike again.

  7. Carol says:

    “He admitted to having a “blind spot” when it comes to inclusion. ”
    I laughed my head off at this statement. White people will never cease to amaze me. What a jerk.

    • Mel says:

      They did a group appearance a few months back that’s available on youtube and he called Priya Sohla as he was talking to her on the stage! I cringed in my living room and you could tell that the temps over there went to sub-zero level.

  8. Chichi says:

    The whole pay/ seniority discrimination issue is a horrible deal and I’m happy to see someone called him out on this.

    The dressing up thing… not sure. I’m not American so maybe less sensitive to this, but not sure I would even care I saw a non-Latin/ Hispanic person dressed as a bull fighter or a mariachi or a reggaeton singer.

    • Sunday says:

      Except the examples you all gave are all professions, not a cultural heritage or race. It’s not like he dressed like Daddy Yankee or Pitbull, he put together a costume that intentionally mocks a very specific culture. That was the entire point of his costume. When you specifically describe your costume as “look at me I’m a Puerto Rican don’t I look so ghetto and scary,” that is racist and gross and I’m glad he got called out.

  9. Margles says:

    The BA YouTube videos are enormously popular. Probably more successful than the magazine at this point. Dan Olson (Folding Ideas) did a video essay on the topic of YouTube cooking videos that discusses them and the issues related to cooking videos in general.

  10. Jerusha says:

    To answer the question, no, I don’t watch any cooking shows, nor do I watch any HGTV type shows, either. But, way more importantly, what is it with White people doing blackface or brownface? It was wrong when Al Jolson and vaudeville performers did it 100+ years ago and it should be even more wrong now, when we have supposedly evolved. And it’s not only mouth-breathing KKK’ers doing it! At least some of them are getting caught and paying a price, minimal though it be.

  11. Chica1971 says:

    Same thing happened with Refinery 29, it just goes to show how rampant this behavior is and it depends on the secrecy of both the victim and the victimizer.

  12. Jay says:

    I love BA videos, and Sohla in particular. Adam was consistently the worst part of every Bon Appetit media. Good riddance.

  13. AnnaKist says:

    Eh?? Why does anyone with eyes still have a “blind spot about inclusion”? Jaysus, it’s 2020. AR sounds like a proper twat, amd hopefully was escorted from the premises.

  14. Mel says:

    I stan the BA test kitchen and their channel has been my light during the lockdown!
    Having said that, Rapo is not included.
    I love Sohla!
    That very extremely brave of her to speak up and explain in details what was wrong behind the scenes.
    Priya was also extremely vocal and supportive immediately.

  15. bluemoonhorse says:

    Basically his blind spot is paying people! Wouldn’t this be flat out illegal in terms of Labor Laws? What a racist POS trash.

  16. manda says:

    I prefer the tasty videos on facebook and buzzfeed! They are so fun and fast. I follow (followed? feel like I haven’t seen some in a while) some from france, italy, and japan, and yummmmmm.

    BA and NYT are way too step- and ingredient- intensive. I just want to make something to eat, not dazzle anyone

  17. MellyMel says:

    The BA Youtube channel has really been one of the things getting me through quarantine. I adore all the chefs, especially Brad & Claire, but I’m not surprised by any of this. Adam has always rubbed me the wrong way. And you can tell the rest of them really didn’t like him, especially Molly. He just came off as a try-hard ass. As far as Sohla, I love her and she deserves her own show! She is the most talented person in that kitchen and deserves to be paid for it! Also pay Gabby more! She is the kitchen manager but she’s literally in every video! And where are the black chefs??

  18. Teebee says:

    I have subscribed to BA magazine for about 5 years now. Today, I barely open the ever-thinning rag, it just gets tossed somewhere because everything is now online. For free. I am paying for free content, terrible ads and irrelevant travel writing. I don’t watch the videos because I find the “personalities “ just that, personalities. The food gets lost. I’d rather read a recipe, and just get to the friggin’ point of it. These food videos and the performance attached to them is the equivalent of the life story that food blogs require you to scroll past to get to the recipe!

    I am a cook, looking to cook and eat.

    In fact I will be finally canceling my subscription. Laziness has delayed this from happening sooner. This controversy isn’t the reason I will finally get off my butt to do it. But clearly I see the folly of throwing hard-earned money at something with little value.

    I’d appreciate any recommendation for a magazine that is worth it. I am looking for good recipes, well-thought out, and tons of information, challenging techniques. I am thinking Cooks Illustrated?

    • KL says:

      Absolutely Cooks Illustrated.

    • McMom says:

      Saveur is good, though it doesn’t come out very often.

      I used to subscribe to Cook’s Illustrated and the format, although helpful, doesn’t inspire me to cook.

  19. Valiantly Varnished says:

    I have been a BA test kitchen fan long before lockdown. And all I can say is WOW. And Sohla went OFF. I don’t blame her. I had no idea that she was doing videos without being paid. That is utter and complete BS. Those videos take DAYS to make. And they do them ON TOP of their editorial work for the magazine. And she only makes 50k a year for what she does?! Rapaport has always rubbed me the wrong way. He gives off that liberal white dude vibe that is always hiding a bunch of racist BS underneath. Glad he’s gone. But the issue is bigger than him. Conde Nast and the entire culture is the real issue. So disappointed.
    Edit: this also explains why the only black person in the BA videos is the security guy who they “sometimes” have in videos when they pass out food. 😒😒

  20. Emilia says:

    As a hispanic person, I was incredibly… i don’t want to say offended but a general feeling of UGH. Especially if you read the comments on the original post his wife had made. They were very obviously making fun of the culture. One of their friends said something to the effect of “i was so scared of you all that night”.

  21. Rural Juror says:

    I’ve been a BA subscriber for about 10 years now and am a big fan of the BA Test Kitchen videos. As someone who’s dialed in pretty heavily to the food world (at least half of the people I follow on Instagram are chefs or other food bloggers/writers), this was HUGE news yesterday and between Instagram and the BA Test Kitchen FB page, I pretty much watched it unfold in real time. There have long been murmurings about why there are not more POC featured in BA videos – particularly since there’s been a big increase in popularity of what used to be considered “ethnic” food. Had it just been the picture of Adam Rappaport, he probably could have weathered the storm, but once Sohla came out and said that she and other POC staff members were not being paid for their videos while the white staff members were? Definitely not. In all, there was only about 9 hours between Sohla dropping that truth bomb and Rappaport’s resignation, which is pretty incredible. The immediate outrage from the other BA Test Kitchen editors and their refusal to appear in new videos until the pay disparity issue is fixed had a lot to do with the swift exit, IMO.

  22. Lillian says:

    That was a good simple statement (posted on the square in the article)- accepted responsibility without obfuscating. Rare.
    (Not giving him a cookie, just saying I appreciate it for what it is).

  23. David says:

    It’s a good statement and I’m glad he went swiftly. Damn that Molly. I want to dislike her so much!

  24. Miss617 says:

    I love the BA test kitchen and always appreciated Sohla as she was constantly saving everyone’s asses. 50,000 as a base salary for someone with her experience in New York City is also PITIFUL. I’m hoping that she gets her contract for video appearances renegotiated ASAP and the back pay she deserves. Also found it very telling that before the white “stars” of the kitchen (Claire, Brad, Chris, Carla) jumped in to support, the first people backing up Sohla were the few other BIPOC BA staff, past and present.

  25. Ben says:

    I remember Rapoport flexing in one video that he had to stop filming because he was going to meet with Ana Wintour. I wonder if he was as excited when she summoned him to respond for this mess? Sohla was very smart in bringing up her salary. She slayed this.

  26. K.T says:

    Mixed feelings about this I went from feeling anger for Sohla & all those other black, indigenous & people of colour who didn’t get recognition and payment from Conde Nast …to feeling like it’s all not worth it to watch. It was a good platform & seemed to be getting better at gender & diversity the whole premise was that people cared about teaching & teamwork.

    Now we know that Sohla doesn’t feel supported and they prob don’t really like each other so it’s kinda a sham. I wonder about her statement about ALL BIPOC not being paid because isn’t Andy is Persian and he has a series? Anyway, Delaney is probably out because of his dodgy sexist tweets years ago. if views may go down they’ll probably just shelve the you tube channel and they’ll all lose jobs! 🙁

  27. Kittycat says:

    Can you really justify any racial blind spots right now? It’s up to us white people to educate ourselves and do better. Also, we’re the ones in the room when black people walk out, and we hear the racists things that come out of the crowd’s mouth. It’s up to us to speak up.