Bon Appetit’s Reckoning: A Lesson in Managing Gen-Z Stakeholders

Gen Z students looking at phones

Bon Appétit (BA), a 64-year-old food and entertainment publication, gained popularity with Millennials and Gen-Z via its YouTube channel. It was a key part of editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport’s rebrand of BA as a too-cool-for-school food hub.

The BA YouTube channel featured a personality-driven approach to cooking, starring a diverse group of employees known as the Test Kitchen. The channel features videos, reminiscent of a feel-good sitcom, with episodes ranging from a pastry chef crafting gourmet Twinkies to a food editor recreating Guy Fieri’s Trash Can Nachos.

Fans glorified BA, and members of the Test Kitchen became micro-celebrities. The channel grew more than 600 percent and gained a net worth of $8.5 million. It became the fastest-growing YouTube channel in the food space with more than 40 million views per month and five billion total minutes watched, or about 9,512 years.
The Crisis
During the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, BA issued a statement from Rapoport saying the brand had “work to do” on diversity. He said BA would cover more stories on Black chefs, Black-owned businesses and “racial and political issues at the core of the food world.”

In a series of tweets following the statement, Puerto Rican food writer Illyanna Maisonet accused BA of tokenizing the work of BIPOC staff and freelancers. In addition, Maisonet posted messages Rapoport sent her when she pitched him.

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