Sohla El-Waylly on Race, Food and 'Bon Appétit' : It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders Sohla El-Waylly called out her previous employer, Bon Appétit, during the magazine's racial reckoning last summer and resigned. The chef and food star is now a columnist at Food52 and star of the YouTube series Off-Script with Sohla. She and Sam talk about racism in the food media industry (and everywhere else), The Cheesecake Factory, and certain kinds of mushrooms.

You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.
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Sohla El-Waylly on Race, Food and 'Bon Appétit'

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Sohla El-Waylly on Race, Food and 'Bon Appétit'

Sohla El-Waylly on Race, Food and 'Bon Appétit'

Sohla El-Waylly on Race, Food and 'Bon Appétit'

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/974000091/974894581" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Chef Sohla El-Waylly. Jingyu Lin/Narrative PR hide caption

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Jingyu Lin/Narrative PR

Chef Sohla El-Waylly.

Jingyu Lin/Narrative PR

Sohla El-Waylly was one of the most vocal critics of her previous employer, Bon Appétit, and eventually resigned after the magazine's racial reckoning.

She's now a columnist at Food52 and star of the YouTube series Off-Script with Sohla. She and Sam talk about racism in the food media industry (and everywhere else), The Cheesecake Factory, and certain kinds of mushrooms.


Interview Highlights

On cultural appropriation in the food industry:

We need representation of different chefs as well as different foods... but who's the one presenting it? That's where it gets a little confusing and a little complicated. I personally think what I want to see is more people of color doing everything the way that white chefs have been able to do everything this whole time. A white chef can be an expert in French food and then turn around and go to Thailand for a week and come back and be an expert in Thai cuisine. Which I don't think is the right way to do it, but I hope we ultimately get to a place where anyone can do anything, we're definitely not even close.

On the response to her Instagram posts calling out unequal pay and racial discrimination at Bon Appétit:

I was really surprised. I've been talking about this stuff my whole life and I've always been ignored, so I'm just used to being ignored and screaming into the wind, so I can't believe people actually listened to me... Just because you hired one Black food stylist doesn't mean everything's okay now, guys. It's not just a problem with BA, it's not just a problem with food media, it's every industry everywhere.

On the strong reaction to her criticism of Bon Appétit:

I think the thing that hit the viewers and fans was what hit me too, like this sense of betrayal, you know. Because I saw the BA Test Kitchen as a viewer before I was in it. So when I got in there, I felt betrayed too, like, "Whoa, this is all a lie." You know what I mean? So I think that really stuck with people, as well. People don't like to be lied to, I get it.

Advice for people experiencing casual racism and sexism in their industries:

I didn't make any change, I don't think any change happened. I think maybe we're talking about stuff, but even within Bon Appétit, I don't think any real change is happening... I had a big statement and I had a big moment, but it didn't make a big change, to be totally honest. So don't put a lot of pressure on yourself to try and change something that's been a problem for hundreds of years, you know what I mean? Everyone should just do whatever they can, and that might just mean reaching out to one coworker who you think is struggling... We all just have to keep doing these little things every day.

On psychedelic mushrooms giving her a new perspective:

I decided to try mushrooms for the first time... I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude... it really opens up your mind. And I was thinking about my friend from fourth grade, we started out in the same place and ended up in really different places because we got different opportunities, not because we had different abilities, and I just really started thinking about these things. The way things are is just really unfair and we have to figure out how to fix this.

This episode of 'It's Been a Minute' was produced by Jinae West. It was edited by Jordana Hochman. You can follow us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and email us at samsanders@npr.org.