Reply All Abandons Test Kitchen Series After Host Controversy
While accusations of racism and a toxic work culture at food magazine Bon Appetit kicked off in earnest in summer 2020 as the Black Lives Matter movement engulfed the U.S., numerous articles and investigations have shed a light on just how long standing these issues really were at the publication. The latest deep dive took the form of a multi-part Reply All series hosted by Sruthi Pinnamaneni. After just two episodes, Reply All itself was hit with accusations that Pinnamaneni and co-host PJ Vogt stifled efforts by employees of their parent company, Gimlet, to form a union and address workplace issues similar to those at Bon Appetit. Both Vogt and Pinnamaneni stepped away from Reply All following the backlash, and co-host Alex Goldman announced in a new episode that the Test Kitchen series would not continue.
On May 31, 2020, Bon Appetit addressed the rising Black Lives Matter protests in an Instagram post that promised to put Black businesses and staff “front and center.” For contributors like Illyanna Maisonet, the irony of this announcement was too rich to ignore. On Twitter, she wrote about how BA editors rejected her pitch to write about “Afro-Boricuas that make regional rice fritters.” She said this prompted a disappointing discussion with then-editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport, the backlash to which renewed attention to a 2004 photo of Rapoport dressed in a stereotypical Puerto Rican costume. This led to public condemnation from current staffers and contributors like Priya Krishna, Joseph Hernandez, and Sohla El-Waylly, who revealed she was not being paid for her video appearances. Turns out that hardly any of the employees of color who appeared in videos were being paid for that work, even as white employees were compensated for it.
Rapaport stepped down on June 9. In August, Krishna, El-Waylly, and contributing food editor Rick Martinez stepped away from video, followed by Molly Baz, Gaby Melian, Carla Lalli Music, Amiel Stanek, Claire Saffitz, and most recently, Alex Delany, who faced his own reckoning for sexist, racist, and homophobic comments.
In a Twitter thread on Tuesday, February 16, a former Gimlet employee named Eric Eddings noted what he saw as the further irony of Pinnamaneni and Vogt covering this scandal: “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,” he tweeted.
Eddings alleges that Vogt sent harassing messages to those involved in the union effort, and that Pinnamaneni held an anti-union meeting and called Eddings a “piece of shit.”
In the second episode of the Test Kitchen series, Pinnamaneni acknowledges that she initially opposed the Gimlet union.
“The company where I work, Gimlet, had its own version of these problems,” she says. "The white people who ran the place hired people of color, and promised them change that never quite seemed to materialize. A group of employees tried to fix the place themselves and eventually things ended as these things often do—in a union drive. Plenty of people joined that fight, I did not. To the extent I talked about it, I talked about the way that their fight was stepping on my toes. It took eight months of reporting on Bon Appetit for me to see how wrong I was about all that, and if I’m honest, I’m still processing the anger that I feel toward myself. I wish I’d made different choices.”
Pinnamaneni also issued a second statement on Twitter following Eddings's accusations.
Vogt also posted a public statement on Twitter confirming his decision to step away from the podcast on February 18.
“The focus should be on BA and what [employees there] experienced, but this series feels like an effort [for Pinnamaneni and Vogt] to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of colleagues at Spotify and the ones who have left,” Eddings tweeted before the hosts' departures.
Former colleagues have backed Eddings’ claims.
“It’s impossible to explain just how dark that time was,” Brittany Luse, who now co hosts The Nod Show with Eddings on Quibi, tweeted. “Their pushback thickened the air.”
One more thing: when Eric says “infinitely hard”, it’s impossible to explain just how dark that time was. Their pushback thickened the air.— Brittany Luse (@bmluse) February 16, 2021
I’m eternally grateful to Eric and the rest of the organizing committee for pushing and fighting so faithfully on behalf of all of us. https://t.co/epvRKV8I1R
This story has been updated.