The Condé Nast-owned Bon Appetít was a hit, bringing GQ-like hipster sexiness to food coverage. And in the summer of 2020, the magazine came under fire from a blitzkrieg of racist allegations—a scandal that many people who worked at the magazine believed was a long time coming. As Vox summed up at the time:
Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport wrote a column about George Floyd's killing, his magazine's editorial mission, and the intersection of justice, inequality, and its discontents.
"In recent years, we at BA have been reckoning with our blind spots when it comes to race," he wrote. "We still have work to do."
Now, less than two weeks later, Bon Appétit is still working to address its blind spots — just not with Rapoport.
After 10 years on the job, Rapoport resigned as Bon Appétit's top editor on June 8, after writer Tammie Teclemariam found a 2013 photo of Rapoport in brownface. Simone Shubuck, Rapoport's wife, originally posted the photo with the caption "me and my papi" and used the hashtag "boricua," a term for a person from Puerto Rico. But as offensive and embarrassing as that mistake of a photo is, it's not the entire reason Rapoport resigned.
The photo, and Rapoport's behavior, was a symptom of bigger, unaddressed toxic work culture at the food magazine, according to staffers — one that many say extends to the food world at large, which has slowly become more diverse in recent years but is bedeviled by white gatekeepers.
Now, Gimlet Media's Reply All podcast has just launched a 4-episode investigation into what, exactly, happened with the racist culture at Bon Appetít, beginning with its reinvention under Editor-In-Chief Adam Rapoport, who took over in 2010.
But what makes the podcast stand out—aside from its topical subject matter—is its format. It centers the voices of people of color—and only people of color—in a unique and remarkable way. They rightly realized that no one needs to hear about structural racism from Adam Rapoport or Anna Wintour; it's more informative to hear the story from the people who experienced it. There's an "upstairs-downstairs" element to the story, too; literally, many of the interviewees worked in the test kitchen at Bon Appetít, which was downstairs from the editorial offices, and it was there that so many people of color struggled and strived, hoping to some day move upstairs and make it into print.
There's also a refreshing candidness to the interviews, as various grapple with what, exactly, bigoted behavior and structural racism entail. The people telling this story readily admit that there were instances that—at the time—didn't seem particularly problematic, or at least, weren't necessarily indicative of a racist culture. But those subtle behaviors became more insidious over time, and in hindsight, especially after the full scope of Bon Appetít's long-standing problems was revealed.
The first 2 episodes are available now, wherever you get your podcasts. The next 2 parts will presumably follow in the weeks to come.
"The Test Kitchen, Chapter 1: Original Sin" [Reply All / Gimlet Media]
"The Test Kitchen, Chapter 2: Glass Office" [Reply All / Gimlet Media]
Bon Appétit's editor in chief just resigned — but staffers of color say there's a 'toxic' culture of microaggressions and exclusion that runs far deeper than one man [Rachel Premack / Business Insider]
Image: Ken Lund / Flickr (CC-BY-SA 2.0)