3 of Bon Appétit's Test Kitchen stars of color are departing the video channel after failed contract negotiations
- Three of Bon Appétit's Test Kitchen stars are departing the famed video channel.
- Rick Martinez, Sohla El-Waylly, and Priya Krishna told Business Insider that they would no longer appear in Test Kitchen videos. They shared on their Instagram stories on Thursday why they chose to leave.
- The entirety of Bon Appétit's on-camera talent has refused to host videos since early June, when talent of color said they were paid less than their white counterparts.
- A Condé Nast representative said the video team had worked with each member of the Test Kitchen to achieve equitable compensation. They added that pay is determined by employees' roles and experiences.
- "To suggest that we are paying individuals differently based on race, gender or any other reason simply isn't true," the representative said.
- Read more for exclusive information on contract negotiations and how Condé Nast's video arm may fare with a radically different Bon Appétit Test Kitchen here.
After five weeks of contract negotiations, three of Bon Appétit's Test Kitchen stars are departing the wildly popular video channel.
Priya Krishna, a contributing writer, Rick Martinez, a contributing food editor, and Sohla El-Waylly, an assistant food editor, told Business Insider that they would no longer appear in videos.
They represent three of the six people of color who are regularly featured on the Test Kitchen videos.
El-Waylly will stay in her role writing recipes and other content for Bon Appétit's magazine and website, while Krishna and Martinez will continue to freelance on the brand's editorial side.
—Priya Krishna (@priyakrishna) August 6, 2020
Bon Appétit has not posted any new videos since June 5, though the print and online versions of the magazine have continued their usual output.
The Condé Nast publication has been in turmoil since early June, when two of its top leaders resigned. Adam Rapoport, who was the editor in chief until June 8, and Matt Duckor, who led video programming for Condé Nast brands including Bon Appétit until June 10, both left the company following allegations of offensive behavior and racial discrimination.
Weeks of contract negotiations failed
Current Bon Appétit employees previously told Business Insider that the Test Kitchen had a two-tiered pay system.
Employees said that some Test Kitchen talent were paid for each video they appeared in, while others were not compensated for their video work. Bon Appétit employees said most of the paid talent were white, while most of the uncompensated talent were people of color.
A Condé Nast representative said the video team had worked with each on-camera contributor over the past several weeks "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 representative stressed that contributors and employees are paid fairly.
"We pay all our employees fairly, and in accordance with their role and experience," they said. "Our pay practices are in line with industry standards. To suggest that we are paying individuals differently based on race, gender or any other reason simply isn't true."
Hours before Rapoport stepped down on June 8, El-Waylly said in an Instagram story that she was not paid for her video appearances, adding that she had a starting salary of $50,000 at the company despite having 15 years of culinary experience.
Following her posts, white Bon Appétit video stars said on their social-media channels that they would stop appearing in videos until their colleagues of color were fairly compensated.
Contract negotiations began with Condé Nast Entertainment — the publisher's video arm — in mid-June, the talent said. El-Waylly received a new version of her contract on June 8, she told Business Insider. It offered a $20,000 raise; El-Waylly previously said she was "insulted and appalled" at that offer, as other stars were said to earn much more over time in per-episode fees.
On June 19, she told Condé Nast Entertainment that she would not host or appear in any more videos.
Condé Nast Entertainment leaders announced in a staffwide Zoom meeting on June 25 that they would present initiatives in August to address diversity, talent development, community, and education.
However, Condé Nast Entertainment employees previously told Business Insider that pledges about more inclusion had been made before, with little action. El-Waylly said she felt that Condé Nast Entertainment did not put forward clear goals about increasing diversity behind and in front of the camera.
"I think they're very risk-averse," El-Waylly told Business Insider. "I think that more people of color are going to be more visible in food media. That's more of a progressive thought, but Condé is a bit conservative and risk-averse. Maybe they'll do it in five years after someone else makes it cool."
A Condé Nast representative said in June that the company would publish a diversity-and-inclusion report this summer and a pay-equity study by the end of 2020. "Going forward, we are prioritizing and addressing our teams' desires to foster a more open and inclusive workplace culture with new leadership and are committed to making sure that happens," the representative said.
The contract battles for Krishna and Martinez lasted five weeks, they said. Both received identical contracts at different times 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. The contract was reviewed by Business Insider.
Condé Nast Entertainment management told the entire Bon Appétit video talent of the new structure in a Zoom call on June 18. These rates constituted the base pay, meaning some were eligible to earn more per appearance than what was outlined. Martinez and Krishna said they would have received only that base pay.
The same contract that outlined their daily rate also guaranteed 10 video appearances per year. This differed from the contracts, reviewed by Martinez, that some of their white peers received, where guaranteed appearances totaled up to 60, he said.
Martinez and Krishna said this would have meant a pay cut for Martinez and a very slight bump for Krishna. Ultimately, they said, they would still be paid less than their white counterparts.
Martinez said it was unclear why Condé Nast Entertainment was unable or unwilling to provide a meaningful pay increase for the three cooks of color. "With this company, it's just mind-boggling," Martinez said. "The only thing I can work out in my head is that the sanctity of the institution is more important than some of the people who work there."
What will become of the Test Kitchen
As of Thursday, negotiations were ongoing for everyone at the company, save for Krishna, Martinez, and El-Waylly.
With the departure of these three stars, it's clear that if the Test Kitchen does return, it won't be the one that fans fell in love with. A Condé Nast representative said in August that programming with new and returning on-camera talent was forthcoming.
"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," the representative said.
El-Waylly predicted that the Test Kitchen would go the way of Condé Nast's other video brands like Vogue and GQ, which mostly feature celebrities, who provide guaranteed clicks and cash for the publisher.
"I don't think they're going to invest in regular people ever again," El-Waylly said. "If just part of the team returns and then new random brown people, that's so transparent — people aren't that stupid. But maybe if they get Beyoncé I'll watch."
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