When a friend reached out to Dawn Davis about the editor in chief opening at Bon Appétit, she was quick to recommend someone else — a writer she had just signed at her Simon & Schuster imprint, 37 Ink. This friend, a restaurant owner, suggested that Davis throw her name in for consideration, but the book publishing executive hesitated.
“And I thought, ‘Sure,’ thinking, ‘Well, that’s not going to work because I have no magazine experience. It’s just not going to work,'” Davis told CNN Business in a phone interview earlier this month.
But not long after that conversation, Davis was subjected a full court press. She received an email from Condé Nast’s most influential leader, Anna Wintour, who complimented her work and asked if she had time to talk.
Later, Davis’ friend, award-winning chef Marcus Samuelsson, called her and encouraged her to apply. Samuelsson started serving as an advisor and guest editor of Bon Appétit in August — two months after then Editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport resigned over accusations of bias and for fostering a discriminatory culture at the magazine.
“Dawn thinks from 30,000 feet. You will see it through the content,” Samuelsson told CNN Business. “It’s going to dramatically change. It’s going to be dramatically more inclusive, and that then impacts the industry and that forces our competitors to look at that space. It’s needed.”
The food media industry has long been accused of promoting a “White aesthetic” that props up White chefs and personalities, as Navneet Alang wrote for Eater. This summer’s reckoning over racial injustice prompted many to examine and call out the complicity and bias in their own industries.
Those in food media saw Rapoport, who apologized for his “failings,” and Los Angeles Times food critic Peter Meehan lose their jobs over allegations of toxic or discriminatory behavior. Meehan apologized but also said that a number of the allegations against him are not true. Just before the summer, The New York Times put cooking columnist Alison Roman on leave after she criticized Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, two successful women of color. Roman apologized and said she was “deeply embarrassed” about comments she made.