Is this the end of Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen? In simultaneous statements released on Twitter and Instagram on Thursday, Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly, and Rick Martinez announced that they’ve left the publication’s enormously popular video series. The decision comes after negotiations with Condé Nast Entertainment for more equitable pay, which the company’s video leadership promised but which Krishna says was just “lip service.” In a post on Twitter, she instead calls the past few months “disappointing and insulting.”
Following those three announcements, fellow Test Kitchen stars Molly Baz and Gaby Melian say they will no longer appear in videos. Baz writes on Instagram, “I support their decisions unequivocally and am extremely disheartened,” adding that she’s now asking “CNE to release me from the video obligations of my contract.” In her own post, Melian writes that CNE “is not meeting my expectations regarding the plans to have a more diverse and inclusive video programing,” so she “will not be signing a contract” to appear in more videos.
Both Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, former editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport’s assistant, and Jesse Sparks, an editorial assistant, left the magazine, as well. Walker-Hartshorn — who had pushed to make it more inclusive during her time there — announced this on Instagram, writing, “I attempted to secure a position at BA that reflected the work I’ve already done … But it seems there is not an appropriate role for me at the magazine. So it’s time to move on.” The two were the publication’s only Black employees; Sparks has accepted a job offer from Eater.
Speaking with the New York Times, Walker-Hartshorn describes Condé Nast as “a hostile work environment,” and Sparks says they’ve “been doing the work editors do, but we haven’t been recognized that way.” (Sparks went into more detail on Twitter.) Walker-Hartshorn had been denied a raise of her $35,000 salary before, including after Rapoport’s roundly criticized “food is political” newsletter published at the beginning of the BLM protests. Speaking about him to Business Insider in June, she said, “He treats me like the help.”
Speaking to Business Insider, Martinez says the contract he was offered would’ve been a pay cut. Krishna says she would’ve received a slight pay raise, but both say that they would still be paid less than their white peers, and that their contracts would only guarantee ten video appearances. Martinez says contracts for some white Test Kitchen employees guarantee up to 60. Speaking on the topic of increased visibility for people of color in media, El-Waylly tells Insider, “Condé is a bit conservative … Maybe they’ll do it in five years after someone else makes it cool.”
Krishna and El-Waylly will still work on Bon Appétit’s print product, as will Baz, she wrote, “for the time being.” In a separate announcement on Thursday, Condé Nast revealed that it has appointed Sonia Chopra, from Eater, to be the magazine’s new executive editor and that an announcement on the new editor-in-chief is still forthcoming.
Bon Appétit has been in a state of turmoil and reckoning since Rapoport resigned in June. He stepped down after wine professional and journalist Tammie Teclemariam shared an old photo of him dressed in brownface. The photo became public after writer Illyanna Maisonet shared an exchange she had with Rapoport about a pitch for a story about Puerto Rican food. Following Rapoport’s resignation, Matt Duckor, who was one of the leaders behind the Test Kitchen videos, also departed. He was criticized by BIPOC employees for unequal compensation and for creating an environment that discouraged diversity.
The photo sparked a broader conversation about the publication’s problems with diversity and race. El-Waylly — who was the first to call for Rapoport to resign — raised the issue of unequal pay and alleged that “only the white editors are paid for their video appearances.” The illusion that the Test Kitchen is the rare happy place to work, as it was perceived to be by so many, was swiftly undone.
Speaking with BuzzFeed, El-Waylly said that when she was hired she wasn’t required to go on camera, but her responsibilities were expanded and she was asked to “stand in the background” while videos were being shot. Krishna and Martinez also publicly called out Rapoport, and all three spoke to Business Insider about a toxic culture within BA’s offices. At the time, other Test Kitchen stars said they would not appear in videos until issues of compensation were addressed. In late June, Condé Nast suspended video editor Matt Hunziker, who had been critical of the company on social media.
This post has been updated with information about Baz’s, Melian’s, Sparks’s, and Walker-Hartshorn’s announcements.