Condé Nast hopes to revive Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel with a new, diverse slate of eight new chefs, coming after seven hosts quit the food publication’s video roster over allegations of racial inequity.
Bon Appétit announced the new talent — DeVonn Francis, Tiana “Tee” Gee, Melissa Miranda, Samantha Seneviratne, Christian “Chrissy” Tracey, Harold Villarosa, Rawlston Williams and Claudette Zepeda — along with the return of previous hosts Brad Leone, Chris Morocco and Andy Baraghani. (Watch the teaser trailer below.) Condé Nast said several BA series will resume production this month and premiere this fall, with Bon Appétit’s popular “From the Test Kitchen” slated to relaunch in 2021.
The reboot of Bon Appétit’s video programming comes after months of turmoil at the food title. Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel has not uploaded any new videos since controversy first erupted at the mag in June. The BA channel on YouTube, with about 6 million subscribers, has been one of Condé Nast’s biggest video outlets.
The Bon Appétit blowup began in June when former editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport was ousted amid allegations of racial discrimination. Then in August, multiple “Test Kitchen” stars including Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly, Rick Martinez, Gaby Melian, Molly Baz and Carla Lalli Music said they refused to enter into new deals with Condé Nast over what they claimed were unfair terms offered to people of color. Last week came one more departure: Pastry chef Claire Saffitz announced that she is no longer working with Bon Appétit.
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Attempting to right the ship, Condé Nast installed new leadership at Bon Appétit. It hired book publishing veteran Dawn Davis (who officially starts Nov. 2) as the brand’s new EIC and tapped Eater’s Sonia Chopra as executive editor, along with enlisting award-winning chef and author Marcus Samuelsson as an adviser and guest editor of BA’s 2020 holiday double issue. In July, the company announced the appointment of Agnes Chu, former head of originals at Disney Plus, to lead the Condé Nast Entertainment video division as president (replacing the now-sidelined Oren Katzeff).
Pictured (l. to r.): Marcus Samuelsson, Dawn Davis, Sonia Chopra. Credit: Courtesy of Bon Appétit/CNE
Chu, who started about a month ago at Condé Nast Entertainment, said in an interview that “there was a lot of misunderstanding and confusion about what happened in the past.”
“We’ve been listening, we’ve been evolving any practices that we think need that,” said Chu, who remains based in Los Angeles. “Everything we do moving forward is very equitable and about treating everybody with great respect.”
Chopra, a former top editor at Eater who joined Bon Appétit about eight weeks ago, said that in reaching out to the chefs who are joining the magazine’s video team she outlined her vision for what BA can become. “What I really want to do is create a place where we are talking about food and culture together,” she said. “We’re building a really inclusive place, where everybody can find stories that resonate with them and also learn something new.”
Condé Nast, in response to the claims of inequity at Bon Appétit, claims that no employees or contract workers were paid unfairly. However, the company has now “standardized” its pay practices, which are “in line with SAG/AFTRA industry rates,” a Condé Nast rep said. “All video talent, both new and returning, are being paid equitably.”
In an Aug. 7 memo to BA staffers, Condé Nast head of HR Stan Duncan wrote that the company’s “lack of open communication about video compensation created confusion.” A Condé Nast-commissioned investigation of the pay-disparity allegations found that all Bon Appétit contributors were “compensated fairly” through their full-time salaries, contracts or freelance agreements and that there was no evidence “that race played a factor in setting compensation for any video team members,” per Duncan’s memo.
Bon Appétit over the next few weeks plans to launch “recipe driven” three-episode miniseries for each chef in its new lineup. The publication plans to develop and greenlight new series to air starting in November in conjunction with CNE.
Currently, the Bon Appétit video shoots are all occurring at the hosts’ homes, Chu said. “As with other production companies we have been very thoughtful and careful about COVID safety measures,” she said. Starting in the new year, Condé Nast Entertainment expects to resume shooting in BA’s Test Kitchen studio in 1 World Trade Center while continuing to observe coronavirus safety protocols.
Here’s more info on the eight new chefs announced for Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel programming:
- DeVonn Francis: The first-generation Jamaican-American chef and artist with a background in design and performance studies founded Yardy, a community space for private dinner parties and performances focused on holistic wellness.
- Tiana “Tee” Gee: The Los Angeles native’s cooking style is inspired by her cultural background and experience working in kitchens across the L.A. food scene.
- Melissa Miranda: After starting her culinary career in Italy, she spent time in the New York City food world before returning to her hometown of Seattle, where she created a series of pop-up restaurants, which later became Musang, her Filipinx-inspired restaurant.
- Samantha Seneviratne: The author of “The New Sugar & Spice” and “The Joys of Baking” is a baker, cookbook author, food editor, food stylist, recipe developer and mother.
- Christian “Chrissy” Tracey: The lifelong vegetarian chef from Cheshire, Conn., creates recipes for plant-based protein alternatives.
- Harold Villarosa: Born in the Philippines and raised in the Bronx, he started his career at McDonald’s and worked his way up to cooking at top-rated restaurant Noma in Copenhagen. He continued developing his culinary skills at Michelin-starred restaurants in New York City and was the executive chef at Freeman’s Restaurant on the Lower East Side. He also is the founder of Insurgo, a community organization focused on bringing the farm-to-table movement to inner-city food deserts.
- Rawlston Williams: Born on the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and raised in Brooklyn, he offers his own take on Caribbean classics. After training at the French Culinary Institute, Williams opened his own restaurant, the Food Sermon, in Brooklyn.
- Claudette Zepeda: The “Top Chef” alum is known for her time as executive chef and partner behind El Jardín, a regional Mexican restaurant in San Diego.
In addition to the lineup of new chefs, Brad Leone, Chris Morocco, and Andy Baraghani are each returning to the Bon Appétit channel, continuing their series “It’s Alive,” “Reverse Engineering” and “Andy Explores,” respectively, while also participating in new collaborations.
Watch the sizzle reel with Bon Appétit’s new and returning talent below (or at this link):