Did Condé Nast rush to unveil Sonia Chopra as executive editor of Bon Appétit after three journalists of color announced they were leaving the Test Kitchen following failed contract negotiations?
Condé just announced that Chopra will lead editorial content across Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Healthyish and Basically and will also be responsible for liaising with Condé Nast Entertainment to help develop the brand’s video strategy. She begins her new role on Aug. 24.
The search is still under way for a replacement for former editor in chief Adam Rapoport, who departed in June following the emergence of a photograph of him in brown face as well as allegations of creating a toxic work culture for people of color.
In the meantime, Chopra, who is joining from Vox where she oversaw strategy and operations at Eater, will report to Anna Wintour, Condé’s artistic director and editor in chief of Vogue.
“I can’t wait to get started with the Bon Appétit team,” said Chopra, who was also a co-executive producer on Eater’s PBS show “No Passport Required” and previously served as Eater’s managing editor. “I’ve been a loyal fan of the brand for years and look forward to collaborating with them to create meaningful change at this pivotal moment happening in food media.”
While no doubt a move that will be widely welcomed, the timing of the news may raise some eyebrows as it arrived just hours after Priya Krishna, Rick Martinez and Sohla El-Waylly announced they would be stepping back from the Test Kitchen, although a spokesperson denied that anything was rushed out.
The three had been in contract negotiations with the company for weeks after it was been claimed that people of color were paid much less, if anything at all, than their white colleagues were for making appearances in the popular video series.
In a statement posted to Twitter, Krishna explained that when she started doing Test Kitchen videos in 2018, she wasn’t paid at first. When she asked to be compensated in 2019, she was offered $300 per video for what she describes as several hours of work, only later to find out some of her colleagues were paid much more.
Krishna continued that after the allegations of a toxic workplace for people of color were made in June, she was told by video leadership that things were changing, there would be a huge push toward diversity and she would receive a fair contract with equitable pay.
But now she claims it “was all lip service.” “The contract I received was nowhere near equitable, and actually would potentially allow for me to make even less that I do currently,” she continued. “These past few months have been disappointing and insulting. I am constantly being told that I am an important part of the test kitchen, yet leadership refuses to acknowledge that in the form of compensation.”
In an Instagram story, El-Waylly wrote: “I’ve decided I won’t be producing anymore videos for Bon Appétit. But don’t worry, you’ll still find me at BA developing fun recipes and stories. No hate to the editors who’ve decided to stay, it’s just not the right thing for me.”
Also on Instagram, Martinez added that he, too, will not continue with Test Kitchen. He had been hopeful things would change, but after five weeks of negotiations it is “clear that I will not get a fair pay rate nor will I get a comparable number of appearances to my colleagues in the test kitchen.” He claimed that execs wouldn’t share the specifics of the diversity and inclusivity initiatives that they say they’re working on.
A spokesman for Condé said: “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. 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.”
Last week it was announced that veteran Walt Disney executive Agnes Chu is joining the company in September as Condé Nast Entertainment president, replacing Oren Katzeff. He’s not leaving the company but his new role has yet to be announced.