Why I’m Rooting for Bon Appétit to Succeed After Months of Reckoning Over Structural Racism


After months of reckoning over racism and pay inequality at Bon Appétit, the recipe-focused food magazine owned by parent company Condé Nast, promises a brighter road ahead for its staff members, freelance food writers, and readers.

The Background

On June 8, 2020, a photo of former Bon Appétit editor in chief Adam Rapoport and his wife Simone Shubuck resurfaced on Twitter featuring the couple posing together as a stereotypical depiction of Puerto Ricans at a Halloween party in 2004. In the Instagram caption, Shubuck called Rapoport “Papi” and used #boricua, a word many Puerto Ricans use to identify themselves.

The photograph re-emerged as racial-justice protests took place around the country sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Bon Appétit staff members condemned the photo and called for Rapoport’s resignation as well as better compensation and equal treatment of Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) on staff.

For more information on the acronym BIPOC, please read the NYT article, “Where Did BIPOC Come From?

Bon Appétit employees told Business Insider that the company compensates employees of color differently for video appearances. A Condé Nast representative denied the claim.

Later that day, Rapoport announced that he would step down as editor in chief to “reflect on the work” he needed to do “as a human being” and to allow Bon Appétit to “get to a better place.”

In the months following Rapoport’s resignation, ten of the 13 staff members of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen announced they would leave the YouTube channel in solidarity with their BIPOC peers.

The Official Statement

On June 10, Bon Appétit posted a statement online via its website and on Instagram, “A Long-Overdue Apology, and Where We Go From Here.” The statement began with, “the deeply offensive photo circulating of [Rapoport] is horrific on its own, but also speaks to the much broader and longstanding impact of racism at [Condé Nast].

The company said it was complicit in a culture that the staff did, “not agree with,” and committed to change. To make Bon Appétit, “inclusive, just, and equitable,” the post said, the company will, “[prioritize] people of color for the editor in chief candidate pool, implementing anti-racism training for staff, and resolving any pay inequities.”

New Leadership

On August 27, Bon Appétit announced Dawn Davis as the new editor in chief. Davis told CNN Business that in her new role, she is “hoping to tap into [her] particular asset, which is a Rolodex over 25 years of working with writers, some from marginalized communities, and elevating those voices and those experiences.”

The YouTube channel re-launched on October 13 with a video from the incoming editor in chief Dawn Davis, new executive editor Sonia Chopra, and new global brand advisor and chef Marcus Samuelsson explaining why they had joined the company and what they have planned across print, social, and video. Eight new chefs joined the Test Kitchen crew, including Chrissy Tracey, Claudette Zepeda, DeVonn Francis, Harold Villarosa, Melissa Miranda, Rawlston Williams, Samantha Seneviratne, and Tiana Gee.

In the comments section of the video, Davis, Chopra, and Samuelsson wrote, “we are listening, learning, and building something together that showcases our best.” The new leaders added, “we are here to build a team that is empathetic, respectful, and open to being challenged; is paid fairly for their contributions; and that represents the audience we hope to serve.”

The Right Path Forward

Like many others in the food and beverage industry, I am watching the development of Bon Appétit with interest, and I am rooting for the new team to succeed. As a reader and frequent viewer of Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel, I admit, I was skeptical of the company’s resurgence. I wondered if Bon Appétit would “accelerate [the staff members’] career advancement and pay,” and amplify BIPOC voices, as promised in its earlier June statement. 

By no means will this time of transformation be easy for the team at Bon Appétit. Undoubtedly, it will take years for the company to rebuild itself and earn the trust of its staff, freelance contributors, and readers. However, by defining its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) and promoting diverse leadership, the company is on the right path forward.

Bon Appétit has an opportunity to create institutional change and I believe the reckoning over structural racism and inequality will lead to a positive result – one that lends more diverse representation in media and the food and beverage industry.


By: Phoebe Rios