Reply All: #173 The Test Kitchen, Chapter 2
February 13, 2021 5:51 AM - Subscribe

Chapter 2, "Glass Office": Years later, in 2018, a new wave of people of color arrives at Bon Appétit. And when their white bosses don't understand the problems they're facing, those people will decide to fix the place themselves.

Check out:
Jesse Sparks' portfolio
Elyse Inamine's Instagram
Ryan Walker-Hartshorn's website and Twitter
A reported story by Priya Krishna
Christina Chaey's 2016 manifesto following Bon Appétit's pho video release. And here's Christina's Instagram.
posted by ellieBOA (18 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The part that really struck me was the host sharing Adam Rappaport's sentiment that "they changed Bon Appetit more than they realized." Sure, good for them - it just came at enormous personal cost with zero compensation.

It seems like in general the people she interviews are doing well in their careers now so hopefully that's actually the case.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:16 PM on February 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

Am I right that I heard Sruthi mention a unionization attempt at Gimlet? Was this covered in Start-Up or anywhere else that I missed?
posted by bq at 1:34 PM on February 15, 2021

it seems they unionized with the writers guild east in early 2019 from what i can find, shortly after they were bought by spotify.

Gizmodo write up
posted by Megustalations at 2:34 PM on February 15, 2021

This series is making me re-assess some of my previous work experiences. How much bad behaviour did I forgive because it wasn't "that bad? (A lot, because I know looked past stuff that was openly gross.) And what could I say if any of my past coworkers were to come back and ask, "where were you when boss was being inappropriate?"

The part with Chaey really hurt because I had a soft spot for her from the Gourmet Makes videos. She was very quiet post-2020 BA meltdown, and this interview really put that into context. As a fellow model minority, it's been really weird and tough to confront one's own internalized racism and try to content with the ways in which you are both privileged and disadvantaged.
posted by Rora at 4:51 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I admit I'm not much of a gourmand, and only heard about the BA events after randomly seeing the Mefi headline Guy Fieri Is The Last Unproblematic Food Person and wondering what the hell that meant. The thing I don't understand is, who the heck is subscribing to Bon Appetit? Like if you plotted out their sub numbers and ad sales on a chart, it has to be a sad plot of failure given the whole internet existing thing. So to hear employees say 'nobody cared about the website, so we had free reign there' sounds bizarre in the year 2015, let alone 2020. It seems more like Conde didn't care that much if BA became one more failed magazine brand in their portfolio, and cast out an underperforming GQ editor to oversee its demise?

I half assumed the trials people faced were a driven by execs chasing a painfully white demographic because thats where the advertising money was, but apparently their advertisers had to arm twist Conde for representation.
posted by pwnguin at 10:28 PM on February 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'm really enjoying reply all's focus on BA, but backstabby Conde Nast media gossip gives some good context. Like a lot of media empires, CN seems like one of those places that didn't have to worry about profitability until it did. (And when it did, they really dragged their feet on economizing measures like "editors shouldn't have chauffeurs" and "stop paying millions to people running a failing magazine.") There's especially a lot of weird internal dynamics there that have probably affected how their digital presence stagnated. If a company only values print, has mainly hired people with experience in print, and doesn't want to invest in digital because they didn't know to monetize it...well, I'm not surprised to hear the website was basically ignored.

It's interesting that so many of the people who got chased away from Bon Appetit in the earlier years ended up at the NYTimes Food section, which charges (I think successfully?) a supplemental fee on top of the regular paper subscription to access a lot of content. How many food-based subscriptions are people going to pay for?
posted by grandiloquiet at 10:49 AM on February 16, 2021 [2 favorites]

For more about Gimlet and their diversity and unionization efforts, this Twitter thread by (ex Gimlet employee) Eric Eddings lays a lot of blame on both Sruthi and PJ for supporting a similar atmosphere at Gimlet. The upshot: "[T}his series feels like an effort to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of colleagues at Spotify and the ones who have left."
posted by carrienation at 2:39 PM on February 16, 2021 [11 favorites]

Oof carrienation that's terrible!! Thank you for sharing.
posted by ellieBOA at 12:19 AM on February 17, 2021 [1 favorite]

P.J. Vogt is stepping away from REPLY ALL
posted by chrchr at 8:09 PM on February 17, 2021

This twitter thread has more updates from within Gimlet, including an internal email. Sruthi is also stepping away.
posted by chrchr at 8:19 PM on February 17, 2021

Statement from Gimlet content head Lydia Polgreen. Most interestingly: "It was always intended that this miniseries was to be Sruthi's last story for Reply All before she moved to other projects at Gimlet, but instead, she will be stepping back from the show immediately. The Reply All team and I will be discussing the plans for The Test Kitchen in the days ahead." So we'll see when (or if) we get another installment in this series. {sorry, crossposted!]
posted by carrienation at 8:21 PM on February 17, 2021

A statement from Sruthi Pinnamaneni
posted by chrchr at 8:53 PM on February 17, 2021

Wow that was a quick response, I hope that the series continues quickly, poor former BA POC staffers to have this take away the focus from their stories.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:38 PM on February 17, 2021 [2 favorites]

This is some wild inception shit. A podcast about one media company getting called on their bullshit in turn causes the podcasting company to get called on their bullshit. spidermen_pointing.gif
posted by axiom at 12:07 AM on February 18, 2021

On the blue, now.
posted by progosk at 1:08 PM on February 18, 2021

Cross posted from the blue:

Alex Goldman just published a 2 minute long update episode, Reply All is on pause and they are not airing the remaining two Test Kitchen episodes but are leaving the first two online with disclamers.

I am devastated for the Test Kitchen former employees that they don't get to tell their stories and I hope another publication/podcast picks it up.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:58 PM on February 25, 2021

And a Twitter thread from Alex Goldman, the next episodes haven’t yet been reported and recorded.
posted by ellieBOA at 9:59 PM on February 25, 2021

How many food-based subscriptions are people going to pay for?

This is part of why it's a big deal: a lot. People in the world of food consume a lot of food media. I have 5 or 6 food media subscriptions across print/digital, plus a few digital-only. and I am not a big consumer.
posted by Miko at 10:34 PM on February 26, 2021

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