HBO Max is developing a new comedy series based on the biggest food media drama of 2020: Enjoy Your Meal — per the Hollywood Reporter — will be a half-hour comedy show based on the recent fallout and racial reckoning at Bon Appétit. Ryan Walker-Hartshorn, who was assistant to former BA editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, will consult on the series. Amy Anoibi, Galt Niederhoffer, and Monica Villarreal will produce.
According to THR, “The show will “draw inspiration from the multiple media scandals of summer 2020 and today, focusing on a cohort of young assistants of color who rise up to tear their cookie cutter corporate culture apart.”
Rapoport resigned last June after writer Tammie Teclemariam tweeted a 2013 photo, which the EIC displayed on his desk, of him and his wife stereotyping Puerto Ricans at a Halloween party. Soon after, racist and homophobic tweets by Condé Nast vice president of video Matt Duckor recirculated and he resigned as well. Bon Appétit staffers, including the personalities from the beloved YouTube Test Kitchen, began to speak publicly about a culture of toxicity, exploitation, and racism at the Condé Nast-owned company, shattering the “good-time kitchen full of friends” image that made Bon Appétit Test Kitchen so popular.
Among the allegations from Test Kitchen personalities were that non-white talent was paid less than white talent, and sometimes they weren’t paid at all for video appearances. By August 2020, after failed contract negotiations, multiple Test Kitchen stars like Sohla El-Waylly, Priya Krishna, and Rick Martinez announced their departure from Bon Appétit.“[A]fter five weeks of contract 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,” Martinez wrote in an Instagram story at the time. White Bon Appétit staffers like Molly Baz and Carla Lalli Music also resigned; “I have been supported and rewarded for my work. My BIPOC co-hosts were not. There’s no way I can go back to video amid all these failures,” wrote Music at the time.
It’s a juicy story that has already spawned its own meta news cycle, including a four-part podcast called “The Test Kitchen” from Reply All, which intended to explore how it all went wrong in depth. However, the series was canceled after two episodes as employees of Gimlet, which produces Reply All, accused the company of fostering a similarly toxic and racist environment as the one being reporting on. “The BA staffers’ stories deserve to be told, but to me it’s damaging to have that reporting and storytelling come from two people who have actively and AGGRESSIVELY worked against multiple efforts to diversify Gimlet’s staff & content,” wrote Eric Eddings, former host of Gimlet’s The Nod, on Twitter. Reply All co-host P.J. Vogt, and senior reporter, Sruthi Pinnamaneni, both apologized, and stepped back from their roles at Gimlet.
The Bon Appétit story hit such a nerve because, as Pinnamaneni said in one of the aired Reply All episodes, “If you work in media, and frankly in a lot of other industries, you’ve either seen this story or been a part of it.” People of color in all industries know what it’s like to be undervalued, to see a white consumer be treated like the default, to be tokenized, and to feel responsible for creating a more equitable environment, all while just trying to do your damn job.
The Bon Appétit fallout could absolutely make for incisive satire, especially with an insider like Walker-Hartshorn involved.
Disclosures: Former Eater editorial director Sonia Chopra is now the executive editor of Bon Appétit; former Bon Appétit staffer Jesse Sparks is now the cities editor for Eater.