The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen Revolts

an opinion piece on culinary power and why it matters

justin lee
Jul 17 · 15 min read
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

culinary power

The country is in a state of reckoning. The uprising at BA is not unlike what’s happening in other businesses and industries across America. Employees are coming out in a manner reminiscent of the #MeToo movement, exposing the hypocrisy and racial discrimination that’s historically been baked into their company structures and modus operandi.

Image for post
Image for post

Power manifests in food as such — to write narratives and to influence the hungry. You create new cravings, you tell us what to cook.

When the 20th pasta recipe video comes out, I ask, “Why?”
When the BA kitchen hates on green bell pepper, I ask, “Why?” (Do they even know what Cajun food is? Or is that too… Black for them?)

Image for post
Image for post

the myth of culinary pinnacles

The more you pay attention to the culinary world, the more you realize how overwhelmingly French it is. Everything is emulsion this, vinaigrette that. (Bon appétit!) You learn that the “deglazing” thing that Babish tells you to do after searing is actually a technique that French chefs coined centuries ago. Even saute-ing is something the French (claims to) have invented.


cultural colonialism

“There are white chefs that can pull from different cultures without explanation, but us making white food always needs a thesis behind it.” — Sohla El-Waylly

It is insufficient to simply demand the Test Kitchen to cook more “ethnic”/non-White foods because the ones developing the recipes will still be mostly white. Culinary power still falls in White hands, a dynamic we’ve seen to only exacerbate the harm (re: BA phở video). Having white people cook “ethnic” food is akin to rubbing salt on generational wounds.

Image for post
Image for post
https://twitter.com/clairewillett/status/1258961935036411906?s=20
Image for post
Image for post

the missing ingredient

”I have this theory that famine produces great cuisine.”


Image for post
Image for post

furthermore…

For those in need of further guidance regarding the issues of food appropriation and ownership of cuisines, I provided excerpts from Navneet Alang’s article on Eater, which I feel better articulates the power dynamics of whiteness in food media. Please read his full article, link provided below.

Image for post
Image for post

wan coffee

equal parts, coffee & story

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store