Claire Saffitz is to millennials what Julia Child was to boomers. As a member of the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen on YouTube, she attracted millions of viewers with her skill and approachable personality. And whether you’ve actually tried her recipes or just enjoyed being a voyeur, her recreations of popular junk food items (Krispy Kreme donuts, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Bagel Bites) were undeniably impressive.
But then she disappeared from the channel. What happened to the beloved host? Get the details on her exit, as well as the behind-the-scenes controversy that shook things up at Bon Appétit. Plus, find out what Saffitz is up to today.
What Is Bon Appétit Test Kitchen?
Bon Appétit launched its YouTube channel in 2012, with the intention of providing cooking demos from the magazine’s test kitchen. However, viewership didn’t blow up until 2016, when test kitchen manager Brad Leone began a series called It’s Alive! In it, he focused on fermented foods like kombucha and yogurt.
The videos’ casual, comedic style was a hit. Looking to capitalize on its growing audience, Bon Appétit added Gourmet Makes in 2017. The series, hosted by pastry chef Claire Saffitz, attempted to recreate iconic junk foods like Girl Scout Cookies and Cheetos without the preservatives.
Saffitz quickly became a modern-day food icon. Her approach to cooking was personable, scientific (but never stuffy), and inspiring. By 2019, she took on hosting duties for two additional series: Bon Appétit’s Baking School and Making Perfect. For an idea of what makes her so popular, check out her demo for making a better version of a Pop-Tart:
According to a 2019 Repeller story, Bon Appétit had the fastest growing YouTube channel in the food category. It boasted over 40 million monthly views and over 5 billion minutes watched.
But despite its success, things behind the scenes were apparently a nightmare for employees. And the brand’s publisher, Condé Nast, would soon pay the price for it.
Bon Appétit Test Kitchen Faced Numerous Criticisms In 2020
In June 2020, the iconic food publication found itself in hot water for multiple transgressions. It began when writer Illyanna Maisonet expressed concern that multiple pitches for Puerto Rican food stories were rejected because they lacked “new-ness.” After discovering that another white writer was assigned a story on Puerto Rico, she confronted then-editor-in-chief Adam Rapoport.
Rapoport was open to hearing her point of view; he also suggested that her ideas could be tweaked to feel more current. But his words rang hollow. Shortly after, writer Tammie Teclemariam unearthed an old photo of Rapoport and his wife dressed like stereotypical Puerto Ricans for Halloween. He resigned immediately after the brownface scandal broke. “I am stepping down as editor in chief of Bon Appétit to reflect on the work that I need to do as a human being and allow Bon Appétit to get to a better place,” he wrote in a now-deleted Instagram post.
But Rapoport’s exit opened the floodgates for employees’ long-standing grievances. In an Instagram story, food editor Sohla El-Waylly revealed that she wasn’t compensated for her video appearances. It turned out other staffers of color also weren’t paid for their on-screen work. Internet sleuths also discovered problematic social media posts from white employees. Questionable content ran the gamut, from Confederate flag references to sexist remarks.
Bon Appétit released a statement in regard to the scandals, recognizing they “have been complicit with a culture [the] don’t agree with” and promising that “things are going to change.”
Why Did Claire Saffitz Leave The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen?
On October 6, 2020, Claire Saffitz announced that she was leaving Bon Appétit. It followed a June post in which she wrote, “As an employee, I was, of course, to some degree aware of the toxic, racist, secretive, and ultra-competitive environment we worked in together… I should have seen it earlier and used my platform and clout to push back against the leadership.”
Saffitz’s exit statement revealed that her relationship with Condé Nast ended in May 2020. But she gave credit to her former employer for moving in the right direction after the dust settled. In August, former Simon & Schuster Vice President Dawn Davis was appointed the new editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit. Sonia Chopra also joined as executive editor, which officially put two women of color in charge of the brand.
“I’m going to do my own thing,” Saffitz wrote. “I’m grateful to Bon Appétit and CNE (Condé Nast Entertainment) for the opportunity to build my career on their platforms, but this opportunity was not granted equally to all.” Read her entire statement below:
Claire Saffitz Isn’t The Only Chef That Left
Saffitz wasn’t alone in the search for greener pastures. In early August 2020, contributing writer Priya Krishna, assistant editor Sohla El-Waylly, and assistant food editor Rick Martinez said they would no longer appear in videos after failed contract negotiations.
“I am grateful for the platform Bon Appétit video gave me,” tweeted Krishna. “But I refuse to be a part of a system that takes advantage of me, while insisting I should be grateful for scraps. This happens far too often, to too many people of color, many of whom do not have the privilege to walk away from a [expletive] situation.”
The following week, senior associate food editor Molly Baz, editor at large Carla Lalli, and Music and Test Kitchen manager Gaby Melian announced they would no longer appear in Test Kitchen videos, either. By the end of October 2020, 10 out of 13 members of the Test Kitchen walked away from their positions.
What Is Claire Saffitz Doing Now?
Saffitz has a bright future ahead of her. In October 2020, CAA announced a deal to represent the chef and Internet personality in all areas besides books.
Speaking of books, Saffitz released her first cookbook, Dessert Person: Recipes and Guidance for Baking with Confidence, that same month.
She’s also back on screen. In December, she launched the channel Claire Saffitz x Dessert Person on YouTube. It’s reminiscent of her previous work, only Saffitz trades the shiny studio at Bon Appetit for her cozy home kitchen. With 644,000 subscribers, it looks like she has survived the fallout and retained her loyal fanbase.