Bon Appétit editor resigns after backlash from staff and food writers like Priya Krishna

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Bon Appétit magazine’s top editor, Adam Rapoport, resigned his position Monday night after growing calls from former and current staffers and contributors for him to step down. The outcry came after a series of damning online disclosures, including an allegation by an editor that people of color are not paid for video appearances while their white colleagues are and the surfacing of an undated photo that appeared to show a younger Rapoport wearing a racist costume.

“I am stepping down as editor in chief of Bon Appétit to reflect on the work that I need to do as a human being and to allow Bon Appétit to get to a better place,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

“From my extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago to my blind spots as an editor, I’ve not championed an inclusive vision,” he wrote on Instagram, apologizing for his “failings.” He said the magazine’s staff “deserved better” and that it has “been working hard to evolve the brand in a positive, more diverse, direction.”

Earlier in the day, Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant editor and a personality on the magazine’s YouTube channel, called on Rapoport to step down and accused the magazine of paying only white editors for their video appearances on the cult favorite Bon Appétit Test Kitchen series. “I’ve been pushed in front of video as a display of diversity,” she wrote in her Instagram stories to her 231,000 followers. “None of the people of color were compensated.”

El-Waylly, a former chef and restaurateur, said she was hired at a $50,000 salary to assist white editors with less experience. She called on the glossy publication to give employees of color “fair titles, fair salaries, and compensation for video appearances.”

A representative for the magazine did not respond to an email asking for comment.

The grievances against the magazine and Rapoport started building over the weekend on social media, when a would-be freelancer posted a chain of direct messages she exchanged with him about a story she had pitched about Puerto Rican rice fritters that had been rejected by another editor. Rapoport told writer Illyanna Maisonet that Bon Appétit readers expected stories to reflect “what’s happening ‘right now’ in the food world.”

People jumped on the exchange, faulting Rapoport for failing to include diverse voices and for taking a condescending tone. (Maisonet later pitched the story to The Washington Post, which accepted it, and the story is scheduled to be published soon.)

That apparently prompted someone to surface a photo that Rapoport’s wife, Simone Shubuck, posted on Instagram in 2013. The undated photo is older than that (she captioned it “#TBT me and my papi @rapo4 #boricua”), and it shows the couple wearing costumes that are obviously meant to be stereotypically Puerto Rican. He sports a Yankees jersey, worn open over a white tank top, accessorized with a large chain and pendant.

“This was so dead on, I was so afraid of you two that night!!!!” read one of the comments.

Priya Krishna’s book ‘Indian-ish’ (Photo of book jacket from priyakrishna.me)

Priya Krishna, a regular contributor to the magazine and the author of the cookbook “Indian-ish,” chimed in on the photo, using an expletive to characterize it. “It erases the work the BIPOC on staff have long been doing, behind the scenes,” she wrote. “I plan to do everything in my power to hold the EIC [editor in chief], and systems that hold up actions like this, accountable.”

Senior food editor Molly Baz posted a message of solidarity on Instagram stories. “I stand with my @bonappetitmag family,” she wrote, calling the photograph “disgusting.”

Joseph Hernandez, the magazine’s research director, also decried Rapoport on Twitter, first noting that he might face backlash from his employer. “I’m likely courting internal reprimand, but I’m appalled and insulted by the EIC’s choice to embrace brownface in the photo making the rounds,” he wrote. “I’ve spent my career celebrating Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, and POC voices in food, and this feels like an erasure of that work.”

Former Bon Appetit potographer Alex Lau responded with a critique of the magazine’s unwillingness to work on its diversity issues and its focus on Asian and white chefs.

“yes, I left BA for multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons was that white leadership refused to make changes that my BIPOC coworkers and I constantly pushed for.”

– Alex Lau (@iamnotalexlau) June 8, 2020

Cookbook author Julia Turshen, who has written for the magazine, also called for Rapoport’s resignation. “I invite my fellow white colleagues to join me in not writing for BA until he does,” she tweeted. “This is unacceptable and I stand in solidarity with my BIPOC colleagues at BA + beyond.”

Jia Tolentino, a staff writer for the New Yorker, also posted that she would not have a byline in the magazine in protest. “It takes a lot of courage to call out this sort of inequity, especially as media goes on collapsing,” she wrote. “I just pulled a piece from BA in solidarity with Sohla and Priya saying what’s what.”

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