Bon Appétit Taps Sonia Chopra From Vox Media’s Eater as Executive Editor, as Three Video Stars Quit ‘Test Kitchen’Variety — Todd Spangler
The situation at Condé Nast’s Bon Appétit remains in flux, following the June ouster of editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport after allegations of racial discrimination at the food-media brand and a photo of Rapoport in brown-face circulated online.
The media and publishing company announced that Sonia Chopra, former director of editorial strategy for Vox Media’s Eater, is joining Bon Appétit as executive editor. Meanwhile, three of the “Bon Appétit Test Kitchen” stars — Priya Krishna, Sohla El-Waylly and Rick Martinez — on Thursday announced in posts on social media that they will no longer create videos for the series, citing unsuccessful efforts at negotiating with Condé Nast for equitable compensation. The trio will continue to be editorial contributors to Bon Appétit.
Chopra, as Bon Appétit executive editor, will help lead editorial content across Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Healthyish and Basically. Until the company hires a new EIC for Bon Appétit, Chopra will report to Anna Wintour, Condé Nast U.S. artistic director and EIC of Vogue U.S. Chopra will start on Aug. 24.
As part of her duties, Chopra will also be responsible for working with Condé Nast Entertainment — which will be led by just-hired Agnes Chu, former head of content for Disney Plus — to develop Bon Appétit’s video strategy. Chu will start in September at Condé Nast, replacing former CNE president Oren Katzeff, who is moving out of the role after allegations of the racial pay disparities in Condé Nast’s video department and offensive comments Katzeff made on social media in the past.
“We are thrilled to welcome Sonia, an incredible leader who has made widespread cultural impact through her passion for food,” Wintour said in a statement. “Sonia’s energy and expertise connecting content across platforms is unmatched and will drive the continued success of Bon Appétit and our food brands.”
Chopra is exiting Vox Media after more than six years working at the company’s Eater site, and her departure comes after a Vox Media layoff of 6% of its employees last month. Most recently, Chopra oversaw strategy and operations at Eater. She also was co-executive producer on Eater’s PBS show “No Passport Required” and previously served as Eater’s managing editor and managed the brand’s 20-plus city sites.
“I can’t wait to get started with the Bon Appétit team,” said Chopra. “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.”
Bon Appétit Test Kitchen will have to move forward without Krishna, El-Waylly or Martinez. In a lengthy statement on Twitter, Krishna said that when she first started doing videos for Test Kitchen in 2018, she wasn’t paid. Last year, she said, the company offered her what amounted to $300 per video, before she later found out that some of her colleagues were making “many, many times this amount” while others weren’t compensated at all.
While working for Bon Appétit Test Kitchen, Krishna wrote, “I voiced numerous complaints — about how non-white members of the test kitchen were tokenized, carelessly framed as monolithic experts for their communities, used as props for white talent, and not given equal opportunities to be featured.” Krishna said Condé Nast leaders assured her things would change — but that was “lip service,” she wrote: “The contract I received was nowhere near equitable, and actually would potentially allow for me to make even less than I currently do.”
El-Waylly posted on her Instagram Story, “I’ve decided I won’t be producing any more videos for Bon Appetit. 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.”
Martinez wrote in an Instagram Story, “After 5 weeks of contract negotiations, it is clear that I will not get a fair pay rate not will I get a comparable number of appearances in the test kitchen. Nor would anyone share with me the specifics of the diversity and inclusivity initiatives in video that they claim to be working on… As a Mexican-American, a BIPOC or member of any marginalized group, we encounter this all the time.” Martinez added that “even in a pandemic, during a recession, after I just closed on a house, I could not sign that contract. My happiness and my self-worth are more important to me than [returning] to the test kitchen.”
In response, a Condé Nast spokeswoman 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.”
Bon Appétit’s YouTube channel, which will now be absent the three popular Test Kitchen hosts, has garnered more than 6 million subscribers since launching in 2017. The publication has 7 million print readers and 10.6 million digital monthly unique visitors, according to Condé Nast.