Nearly three months after Bon Appétit cut ties with then-editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport over accusations of racial discrimination—including a stint in brownface—Condé Nast has named a new top editor to run the renowned food publication: Dawn Davis, an influential editor and top executive in the publishing industry.
Davis, who is Black, comes from Simon & Schuster, where she is currently a vice president and publisher. As US News reports, Davis has 25 years of experience in the publishing industry under her belt; during that time, a hallmark of Davis’ work has been championing Black writers and other authors of color.
At Simon & Schuster, she launched the imprint 37 Ink, which published The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae, Heads of the Colored People, by Nafissa Thompson-Spires, and The Known World by Edward P. Jones, which won a Pulitzer Prize.
As the New York Times reports, Davis is also an “avid home cook.” She is the author of If You Can Stand the Heat: Tales From Chefs and Restaurateurs which profiles the incomparable Edna Lewis, a Black woman who shed new light on Southern cooking, and the late Anthony Bourdain. She also edited the cookbook, Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine, written by Mary Lau Valle and Victor M. Valle.
Since the beginning of June, Bon Appétit has been embroiled in controversy over its leadership and discriminatory workplace practices, including a lack of transparency about assignments and pay. Black, Latinx and Asian American staffers came forward about disparate pay rates for their participation in the brand’s popular cooking videos.
Earlier this month, after Bon Appétit pledged to do better by its staffers of color, three of its journalists announced they were walking away from the publication, saying Condé Nast still failed to pay them the same rates as their white counterparts. Following their departure, the only two Black editorial staffers at Bon Appétit also resigned, saying the company had not recognized their work.
Davis has quite a lot of work to do repairing the brand—though it’s important to note that neither Bon Appétit nor Condé Nast is alone in facing turmoil over its discriminatory workplace practices. Management at Essence and Okayplayer were also notably accused of harmful, exploitative and workplace practices, primarily affecting the Black women who worked at the publications.
In an interview with the Times, Davis spoke about her editorial vision for the publication, where she will be overseeing print, digital, social and video for the brand. She said she aims to connect food and cooking with “issues of equity, issues of the environment, issues of family.”
“I’m hoping to create the kinds of menus that appeal to people across economic spectrums, across levels of sophistication in the kitchen,” Davis said in another interview with CNN Business. “I’m also hoping to tap into my particular asset, which is a Rolodex over 25 years of working with writers, some from marginalized communities, and elevating those voices and those experiences.”
As for her leadership approach and how it may differ from her predecessors, Davis told the Times, “I will lead by example and treat people the way I’ve always been treated, which is with respect, and give everyone an opportunity to shine.”
Davis is slated to start at Bon Appétit on Nov. 2.
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