Oh great, another think piece about Bon Appetit.

For the first time since the scandal broke, Bon Appetit has begun posting videos to their YouTube channel.  The first video, meant to address the elephant in the room, was framed around a Zoom meeting between the newly-christened Editor-in-Chief Dawn Davis, Executive Editor Sonia Chopra, and “Global Brand Advisor” Marcus Samuelsson.  

They talk in empty circles for 7 minutes about the importance of “telling stories”, being “culturally relevant,” and “learning together,” addressing that there is, in fact, “a conversation” happening without addressing what that conversation is. 

However, this promise of telling new stories was almost immediately cut short when they uploaded their first new cooking video later that day, starring veteran White Guy™ Chris Morocco. The bulk of the video itself was just Morocco making (and overcooking) a basic meatball recipe, bookended by even more vague buzzwords about “joining the conversation” that get even more muddled and confusing as the video progresses. Many were also quick to point out that Morocco, as the Test Kitchen Manager, played a part in many of the hiring practices happening within the Test Kitchen, including the mad scramble to hire new POC to make up for all of those who had jumped ship to try to maintain their “diverse” reputation, so starting off the new wave of videos with one featuring him seemed in poor taste.      

Not wanting to end their hot streak, BA uploaded a third video later that same day, this time featuring a new black chef, Chrissy Tracy.  As she made fried oyster mushrooms (in lieu of chicken, since she is vegan), collard greens and cornbread, she explained the history of these soul food dishes and the stigma regarding whether or not eating them was “stereotypical.”  It was fine.  They have not uploaded any videos since. 

I could say that watching these new videos has been like watching a garbage fire, but that would imply a certain level of excitement.  These new videos are clunky, soulless, and awkward, with many people in the comments sections of all three urging the hosts to blink twice if they are being held at gunpoint.  (It’s also worth mentioning that, with the exception of Morocco as already mentioned, everyone in these videos is innocent in the systemic problems within Conde Nast, and you really can’t blame them for wanting to have a job during a pandemic.) 

Meanwhile, Sohla El-Waylly, the powerhouse behind much of the shakedown, has been out there, living her best life. 

After quitting BA entirely, she’s joined forces with Andrew “Babish” Rea, creator of the Binging with Babish YouTube channel, to create what is now the “Babish Culinary Universe.”  Her series, “Stump Sohla,” features Babish trying to do just that, by putting her skills to the test in challenges such as “make mac n cheese from scratch, as they would have in the 18th century,” or “prepare a full 7-course tasting menu with things you found in a bodega.”  

Simultaneously, she started a video series/column with Food52 called  “Off-Script with Sohla,” an ad-libbed guide to mastering basic, yet versatile kitchen techniques.  

On a similar note, a few weeks ago, Claire Saffitz, arguably THE face of the Youtube channel, announced that she had no interest in renewing her freelancing video contract with Conde Nast, which had originally expired in May.  She openly criticized the company’s failure to commit to equal pay for its workers, and declared that she would be “going to do her own thing,” most prominently her new book, Dessert Person, that comes out on October 20th.  

Similarly, Molly Baz has also announced that she has cut ties with BA.  She did her best to be amicable towards everything that has happened over the past few months, wishing the new leadership the best of luck, and teased new and exciting upcoming projects that she has been working on. 

This is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps one- if not both- of them may be getting their own spot in the Babish Culinary Universe?

Watching the Sohla videos feels so much more like the old BA videos than any of the three new BA videos did.  They’re lighthearted, creative, and off-the-cuff, much like the BA videos that cultivated their original cozier, friendlier reputation.  People didn’t watch BA videos to feel woke, or watch people have “conversations,” they did it to watch Claire struggle and triumph (or, some people just… really liked the struggle part…) as she remakes classic junk foods from scratch, or to watch Brad be an absolute himbo as he goes off on ADHD-riddled tangents and mispronounces things.  It was never meant to be anything more than entertainment, and with the “one big happy family” illusion broken, it has ceased to be that.

This isn’t even really a question of “can Bon Appetit recover from this?” anymore.  They had their 15 minutes of fame and squandered it, and no amount of performative wokeness is going to bring back their former prestige.  At the end of the day, BA is still a multi-billion dollar corporation that chose to maximize profits by not paying their employees equal pay for equal work, not your friend who all your other friends are mad at because they got drunk and said something kinda mean but is otherwise redeemable.  

It’s time to move on.

This is probably going to be the last time I revisit Bon Appetit.  Or at least I hope it is, I can’t imagine things blowing up any more than they already have. 

One thought on “Society Has Progressed Passed the Need for Bon Appetit

  1. Jeff says:

    I’ve been a huge fan of the Babish channel for a while, so to see it expand with Sohla is really exciting. It’s absolutely time to leave BA in the dust.

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