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Bon Appétit names Dawn Davis as new editor-in-chief

Davis became one of very few women of color leading her own major-publishing-house imprint in a largely white industry.
Dawn Davis will take over as editor-in-chief at Bon Appétit after a tumultuous few months for the publication that included allegations of discrimination.
Dawn Davis will take over as editor-in-chief at Bon Appétit after a tumultuous few months for the publication that included allegations of discrimination.George Baier IV / Cond? Nast
/ Source: TODAY

Conde Nast named book publisher Dawn Davis as Bon Appétit's new editor-in-chief on Thursday after a contentious few months that included reports of a toxic workplace and inequitable compensation for employees of color. She will become one of the few Black top editors in the media company's history.

Davis, 55, has decades of experience helping elevate diverse voices and storytelling. She most recently worked as the vice president and publisher at 37 Ink, an imprint of Simon & Schuster that focuses on publishing diverse voices, from history books and memoirs to fiction.

She became one of very few women of color leading her own major-publishing-house imprint in a largely white industry.

“It has been a primarily white profession and I think that’s for several reasons,” she told NBC News last year. “The salaries are so low. Many moons ago, I was making $21,000. Now it might be as high as $35,000, but that’s not much growth over 20 years. Not everyone wants to make that choice with the temptation of higher paying jobs on Wall Street, and not everyone can make that choice. So it’s a class issue in addition to race.”

Davis is also no stranger to the food world. In 1997, she edited the cookbook, "Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine," by Mary Lau Valle and Victor M. Valle, and two years later, she authored the book "If You Can Stand the Heat: Tales From Chefs and Restaurateurs," which featured profiles of chefs like Edna Lewis and Anthony Bourdain.

Her appointment follows Adam Rapoport's resignation as editor-in-chief on June 8, after food and drinks writer Tammie Teclemariam resurfaced a photo of him and his wife dressed as Puerto Rican stereotypes for Halloween, igniting backlash from many staffers.

In an in-depth Business Insider report published on June 9, employees of color shared stories of discrimination at the company and called out a pay disparity between white hosts and nonwhite hosts who appear in Test Kitchen videos. Matt Duckor, former head of Condé Nast Entertainment’s lifestyle video programming, also stepped down in June following accusations of pay inequity and resurfacing of racist and homophobic tweets.

Condé Nast, Bon Appétit's parent company, denies that individuals are paid differently based on race or gender.

Davis will start her new job on Nov. 2 and will report to Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, artistic director of Condé Nast US and global content advisor for the company, who has come under scrutiny — and subsequently apologized — for fostering an environment at Vogue that did not value diversity. In a statement, Wintour praised Davis as a "trusted voice and supporter of a diverse and inclusive community of writers."

"She has shone a light on people and stories that need to be told. I am so pleased that she will bring her considerable talent to Bon Appétit," Wintour continued.

In her new role, Davis will be in charge of of the editorial vision of Bon Appétit and Condé Nast’s food brands Epicurious, Healthyish and Basically, overseeing the brands' content across digital, streaming, social, print and video, according to an announcement from Condé Nast. Davis did not immediately respond to a request for an interview; however, in a statement, she shared how she plans to approach her new job.

“Like the Bon Appétit brand, I see food at the epicenter of all we do. Food is connected to community and culture, economics and family. Decisions about what we eat and with whom, who produces our food and how, influences almost every aspect of our lives,” she said. “I look forward to working with both the talented team at Bon Appétit and with writers and tastemakers to create an array of intriguing and inclusive recipes and stories about the intersections between food and family, culture and commerce for our audiences.”

Davis is the second high-profile hire Bon Appétit has made this month. Sonia Chopra, formerly Eater's Director of Editorial Strategy, was named executive editor. Chef Marcus Samuelsson has also been tapped by the company as an advisor and guest editor.

With a new leadership team starting this fall, it's unclear what the future might hold for Bon Appetit's Test Kitchen, which has been on hiatus since June.

In June, Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant editor at Bon Appétit who appeared in Test Kitchen videos, accused Condé Nast of inequitable pay, stating that only white editors are paid to make video appearances. She said she was hired at a salary of $50,000 to “assist white editors with significantly less experience than me.”

Earlier this month, El-Waylly and fellow Test Kitchen stars Priya Krishna and Rick Martinez released statements on social media explaining their decisions to no longer appear on camera for the company after contract negotiations failed to achieve what they believe to be equitable compensation for their work.

Following those statements, Test Kitchen manager Gaby Melian, food editor at large Carla Lalli Music and senior food editor Molly Baz also announced they would no longer appear on camera, expressing frustration with Condé Nast and solidarity with their coworkers who felt they weren't being offered fair compensation.

Around the same time, Bon Appétit's two Black staffers, Ryan Walker-Hartshorn and Jesse Sparks, also announced their resignations from the publication, telling the New York Times they felt exploited by Condé Nast.