Bon Appétit Is Sticking to New Standardized Video Pay After 5 Stars Leave Test Kitchen

Priya Krishna, Rick Martinez, Sohla El-Waylly, Gaby Melian and Molly Baz said they will no longer appear in video content due to contract disagreements

Last Updated: August 7, 2020 @ 5:36 PM

As five stars of Bon Appétit’s popular YouTube channel have left the video series this week over contract disagreements, Condé Nast sent a memo to BA staff on Friday stating that the company would not be willing to break its new standardized video pay rates for salaried and freelance staff.

“We are planning for BA video production to begin in September with some returning talent, in addition to new contributors which we’ll be announcing in the coming week,” global HR officer Stan Duncan wrote in the memo. “We will be using this time to reset and work with the teams and ensure diversity in front of and behind the camera for BA video. We are sorry to see some of our video contributors part ways, but we feel that we cannot break the standard compensation rates we’ve set across our teams now in order to keep them, as some have been requesting.”

On Thursday and Friday, four stars of Bon Appétit’s popular YouTube channel — Sohla El-Waylly, Priya Krishna, Rick Martinez and Gaby Melian — shared on social media that they would no longer be appearing in video content due to unsuccessful contract negotiations with the company. Molly Baz also announced on Friday that she asked Condé Nast Entertainment to release her from her video obligations in solidarity with the staffers and contributors of color who left the Test Kitchen video series over pay disagreements.

A spokesperson for Bon Appétit said they could not disclose to TheWrap what the new standardized pay rates are, but Business Insider reported on Thursday that contracts offered to Krishna and Martinez included “a $1,000 day rate for hosted videos, $625 for videos in which other talent members made an appearance of two minutes or longer, and $0 for videos in which their appearances were shorter than two minutes” and 10 guaranteed video appearances a year — rates that, according to Martinez, would not have matched what some of the Test Kitchen’s white stars would’ve received.

Duncan’s memo rejected the accusations that the company was inequitably compensating staffers of color, writing that a third-party investigation — conducted by Proskauer Rose — did not find “evidence that race played a factor in setting compensation for any video team members” and instead found that “everyone was compensated fairly for video through their full-time salaries or other means as part of project or freelance agreements.” He also said the new pay rates were “set according to, and in many ways exceeding, SAG/AFTRA rates” but acknowledged that the company needed to “do a better job building understanding and consistency across our video compensation policies” and added that Condé Nast would be completing a full U.S. pay study by the end of the year.

In connection with the third-party investigation, Duncan also announced that drinks editor Alex Delaney and video director Matt Hunziker, who had been placed on leave, would be returning to the company in their full positions. Duncan did not explain why either had been suspended initially but alluded to “concerns raised about online bullying behavior and social media histories (mostly predating employment at the company) among members of the team.”

“Based on the findings, we have taken appropriate actions with them, but we can’t go into further detail as we respect employee privacy and cannot share confidential personnel information,” Duncan wrote.

Read the full memo below:

Hi everyone,

Thank you for your time today as we shared the findings of our investigation process and details about how we are moving forward. For those on the team that couldn’t join us, I wanted to send a note so we all have the same information.

First, I want to acknowledge just how difficult of a time this has been for everyone at BA. We’ve had many conversations together and you’ve shared information that has made us look closely at our work practices, all for the better, so we can be the company we all know we can be. Your honesty and bravery in coming forward will have a lasting impact on the Bon Appétit brand. Looking ahead, we’re excited for Sonia and Agnes to begin soon and are hoping to announce a new EIC in the coming weeks. Amanda has done a terrific job stepping in to lead BA and I want to thank her for being so dedicated in this time of transition.

Just to summarize, a few members of the BA team came forward with questions about pay in the Test Kitchen and whether people of color who work in the Test Kitchen are being paid for their on-air time. In addition we had several concerns raised about online bullying behavior and social media histories (mostly predating employment at the company) among members of the team.

We have taken all of these concerns seriously and have spent over a month looking into them carefully with an independent third party. Your willingness to participate and be open and honest was critical throughout the process and I want to thank you for that. It has helped us to address your concerns and plan a path forward with new policies, procedures and ways of working together.

After an extensive study of BA video pay practices, we fully acknowledge the need to do a better job building understanding and consistency across our video compensation policies. While we found that everyone was compensated fairly for video through their full-time salaries or other means as part of project or freelance agreements, it’s on us that our lack of open communication about video compensation created confusion. Our recent investigation also has not uncovered evidence that race played a factor in setting compensation for any video team members. Our pay equity work does not end here, however, and we will be completing our full U.S. pay equity study by year’s end.

Because you came forward, we set and communicated a new standardized video compensation rate card for all freelance and salaried staff. This new rate card has been set according to, and in many ways exceeding, SAG/AFTRA rates. We’ve also worked with each video contributor individually to address the concerns they raised.

We are planning for BA video production to begin in September with some returning talent, in addition to new contributors which we’ll be announcing in the coming weeks. We will be using this time to reset and work with the teams and ensure diversity in front of and behind the camera for BA video. We are sorry to see some of our video contributors part ways, but we feel that we cannot break the standard compensation rates we’ve set across our teams now in order to keep them, as some have been requesting.

As you know, two members of the team, Alex Delaney and Matt Hunziker, have been on leave during the investigations. Now that they are now complete, Alex and Matt will both be returning to their teams. Based on the findings, we have taken appropriate actions with them, but we can’t go into further detail as we respect employee privacy and cannot share confidential personnel information.

Finally, in addition to Condé Nast’s action plan and commitments for diversity and inclusion, BA and CNE have both also shared new initiatives, committees and goals, including our commitment to have 100% participation in unconscious bias training in the next year; increase the number of BIPOC contributors to our content, both in front of and behind the camera; ensure diverse candidate slates for all open roles; expand our pool of BIPOC freelancers; and amplify BIPOC voices in our coverage. Reggie, our SVP of programming at CNE will be setting meetings with all of you to share information about their diversity and inclusion committees working on all areas within video. The work doesn’t stop here and the HR/People team, as well as our editorial leadership will continue to work with you each day and support you to perform at your very best. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, Rebecca or Vera at any time. We are holding open office hours on Monday from 12:45pm-2:45pm EST to continue the conversation with anyone individually. Please just send a note to Naomi Castillo to join us then.

Looking forward to continuing the conversation with you.

Warmest thanks,

Stan