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6 Bon Appétit stars announce they will no longer appear in Test Kitchen videos

Three more members of the Test Kitchen will no longer host videos after Condé Nast's alleged failure to equitably compensate employees of color.
More Bon Appétit stars are stepping away from the Test Kitchen following the departures of Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly and Rick Martinez.
More Bon Appétit stars are stepping away from the Test Kitchen following the departures of Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly and Rick Martinez.TODAY Illustration / Instagram
/ Source: TODAY

Nearly two months after allegations of discrimination and pay inequity at Bon Appétit were brought to light, six Test Kitchen stars say they will no longer appear in videos for the company.

On August 6, three of Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen stars of color, Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly and Rick Martinez, announced they would stop making videos for the publication after contract negotiations failed to achieve what they believe to be equitable compensation for their work.

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

Krishna, El-Waylly and Martinez released statements on social media explaining their decisions to no longer appear on camera. Bon Appétit's video production has been on hiatus since June, when former editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned after food and drink writer Tammie Teclemariam tweeted a photo of him and his wife in makeup and costume that stereotyped Puerto Ricans and allegations surfaced about racial discrimination at the food publication.

In Rapoport's resignation, he wrote, "From an extremely ill-conceived Halloween costume 16 years ago to my blind spots as an editor, I've not championed an inclusive vision.” Shortly thereafter, former Condé Nast VP of video Matt Duckor also resigned, following accusations of pay inequity and resurfacing of racist and homophobic tweets. Duckor apologized for the offensive tweets, writing in a Twitter thread, “My words were inappropriate and hurtful. At the time, I thought I was making a joke," but he did not address any other allegations.

Krishna, El-Waylly and Martinez have previously shared stories about the toxic culture at Bon Appétit in a Business Insider report that was published on June 9.

The Test Kitchen announcements come on the same day the company revealed that Sonia Chopra, Director of Editorial Strategy at Eater, will join Bon Appétit as Executive Editor.

Martinez explained why he is parting ways with the publication.
Martinez explained why he is parting ways with the publication.rick_andrew_martinez / Instagram

"For almost 2 months, we had been told that there were significant changes taking place at CN (Condé Nast)," Martinez wrote on his Instagram story. And after the resignations, I was actually hopeful that things would change and I was excited to get back to work, to be with my friends and to start making content again. And even though the negotiating process was torturous and dehumanizing, I learned a lot."

Martinez called the negotiation process "torturous and dehumanizing."
Martinez called the negotiation process "torturous and dehumanizing."rick_andrew_martinez / Instagram

He said he wasn't satisfied with Condé Nast's new offer, so he decided it was time to walk away from the Test Kitchen.

"We are worth more and we need to recognize that. Our value is defined by us, not them," he wrote. "And even in a pandemic, during an economic recession, after I just closed on a house, I could not sign that contract. My happiness and self-worth are more important to me than returning to the test kitchen."

Per Business Insider, Martinez, a freelance contributor, is "severing his relationship with the company." Krishna, also a freelance contributor, and El-Waylly, a full-time employee, will continue to work on Bon Appétit’s editorial side. El-Waylly wrote on her Instagram story that she'll continue to "develop fun recipes and stories."

"No hate to the editors who have decided to stay. It's just not the right thing for me," she continued.

Krishna explained on Twitter how she initially did the series without any additional compensation while her white colleagues were being paid to appear on camera.

"When I was first asked to do videos in the test kitchen in 2018, the opportunity was presented as great publicity for my upcoming cookbook. I wasn't paid at first," Krishna wrote. "In 2019, I asked to be compensated, and was offered what I was told was the standard rate, which amounted to about $300 per video, for several hours of work."

"I later found out that some of my colleagues were making many, many times this amount for doing video, while others were receiving no additional compensation for video," she added.

After contract negotiations failed, Krishna said that, while she is thankful for the "platform" Bon Appétit video gave her, it was important to her to "refuse to be a part of a system that takes advantage of me, while insisting I should be grateful for scraps."

She concluded with a stirring note to her "BIPOC peers":

Don’t settle. Recognize your worth — these publications need us more than we need them. I hope to find platforms that value me, treat me as a three-dimensional person, and provide a safe environment. Bon Appétit video is not that place.

In a statement to Business Insider, a spokesperson denied that Krishna, El-Waylly and Martinez were paid differently because of their race: "To suggest that we are paying individuals differently based on race, gender or any other reason simply isn't a true."

The company further elaborated on its compensation structure in a statement to TODAY:

Over the last several weeks, the video team has worked individually with each Test Kitchen contributor to address all concerns and communicate equitable compensation structures, including standardized rate cards, in many ways exceeding SAG/AFTRA standards, for freelance and editorial staff who contribute to video," the statement said. "As new leadership at both Condé Nast Entertainment and Bon Appétit join the team in the coming weeks, new video programming with new and returning talent will also be announced.

According to Business Insider, which reviewed the contracts, Krishna and Martinez received identical contracts that reflected a new pay structure: "a $1,000 day rate for hosted videos, $625 for videos in which other talent members made an appearance of two minutes or longer, and $0 for videos in which their appearances were shorter than two minutes."

Those same contracts also guaranteed 10 video appearances a year, while some of their white colleagues received contracts with up to 60 guaranteed appearances, Martinez told Business Insider.

"According to Martinez and Krishna, this would have meant a pay cut for Martinez and a very slight bump for Krishna," wrote Business Insider's Rachel Premack, who wrote the original report on Bon Appétit back in June. "Ultimately, they said they would still be paid less than their white counterparts."

Over the past week, three more Test Kitchen hosts announced their exits from Bon Appétit video, expressing frustration with Condé Nast and solidarity with their co-workers who felt they weren't being offered fair compensation.

A day after the initial wave of resignations, Bon Appétit's Senior Food Editor Molly Baz announced on Instagram that she had asked Condé Nast to release her from her video contract, but she said she will continue to work on the magazine.

"I'm sad. I'm disappointed. I'm frustrated along with all of you," she wrote. "Yesterday we lost three valuable members of our video team. I support their decisions unequivocally and am extremely disheartened that Condé Nast Entertainment was unable to provide them contracts they felt were fair and equitable."

A few hours later, Test Kitchen Manager Gaby Melian, one of the few chefs of color who appeared on-camera for the company, said she would also be stepping away from video.

"I am really proud and happy for all my coworkers and support each and everyone's personal decisions," she wrote. "After weeks of negotiations, Condé Nast Entertainment is not meeting my expectations regarding the plans to have a more diverse and inclusive video program. For that reason I will not be signing a contract with them to appear in videos."

On Tuesday, food editor at large Carla Lalli Music announced on Twitter that she is also leaving the Test Kitchen. She said she asked to be released from her contract on August 7, one day after the first wave of resignations.

"I have been supported and rewarded for my work. My BIPOC co-hosts were not," she wrote. "There’s no way I can go back to video amid all these failures."

EDITOR'S NOTE (August 13, 2020, 11:47 a.m.): This story has been updated to reflect that three more Test Kitchen stars, Molly Baz, Gaby Melian and Carla Lalli Music, have announced they will no longer be appearing in Bon Appétit videos.