Bon Appétit needs to change. Your new editor-in-chief is ready for the challenge


This friend, the owner of the restaurant, suggested that Davis throw in his name for a fee, but the head of the book publisher hesitated.

“And I thought, ‘Sure,’ thinking, ‘Well, it’s not going to go because I don’t have a magazine experience.” It’s just not going to work, ”Davis told CNN Business in a phone interview earlier this month.

“Dawn is thinking about 30,000 meters. You’ll see it through the content,” Samuelsson told CNN Business. “It’s going to change dramatically. The capacity will be more dramatic, and that will affect the industry, and it will force our competitors to look at this space. It’s needed.”

The food media industry has long been accused of promoting “white aesthetics” in support of white chefs and personalities, as Navneet Alang wrote for Eater. The summer settlement of racial injustice has prompted many to examine and call on the guilt and bias of their own industry. Those in the food media saw Rapoport apologizing for his “failures,” and Los Angeles Times eating critic Peter Meehan lost his job because of accusations of toxic or discriminatory behavior. Meehan apologized, but also said many of the allegations made against him were not true. Just before the summer, The New York Times released cooking columnist Alison Roman after criticizing Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, two successful women of color. Roman apologized and said he was “deeply embarrassed” by his comments.

Davis joins Bon Appétit as a bit of an outsider – not only because she’s the magazine’s first black female editor-in-chief, but also because she came from the world of book publishing, where she worked for 25 years. But Davis is not a food neophyte. He has written and edited books on food, and is known as an avid home cook for advocating for “live to eat” instead of “live to eat”. Will this be enough to renew the trust of staff, advertisers and readers in Bon Appétit?

– If you don’t see …

After graduating from Stanford, Davis began his career on Wall Street. His work as an analyst at an investment bank was demanding, not what Davis considered “soul-satisfying.” Despite the long hours, Davis found time to relax by taking cooking classes at the French Culinary Institute.

“Everyone was on the field at Harvard Business School, and everyone was striving – and continuing – for these hugely successful jobs on Wall Street. I just had to follow this passion for learning to cook and play in the kitchen, and I did,” Davis said.

Dawn Davis attends the "The photo" world premiere at the SVA Theater on February 11, 2020 in New York.

In 1989, he won a scholarship to study literature in Nigeria. Davis said he loved reading books when he was young, but he didn’t know it was possible to pursue a career in the book industry until the flight to Nigeria, where he sat next to a book publisher on the plane.

“They say,‘ If you don’t see, you don’t know how you can be, ’” Davis said, “I’ve never met anyone who would have actually published books.

But jumping from Wall Street to book publishing was financially risky. Davis said the career change meant halving his salary. He made the leap anyway after his friends and family questioned his decision. But he loved this job so much that at one point he thought, “When they discover how fun I am, they’re holding back my salary.”

“I saw my monument”

Davis climbed the ladder and worked for some of the world’s most famous publishers, including Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Even though he was new to the field, he quickly gained confidence in his editing skills.

“I knew I could be an advocate, a big advocate for every book I’m excited about,” Davis said. “I never doubted if the author had a more passionate man who would score more and cross more Tt than I did and only edit to the Nth degree.”

In the 1990s, while working at Random House, Davis met Jonathan Karp – the publisher’s manager, who later hired him to Simon & Schuster, where he then became CEO.

“We both have a deep interest in fictional cultural works,” Karp told CNN Business. – Dawn is very present. I liked the minute I met him.

He recalled trying to buy Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” together, but they didn’t get it.

Davis has since edited Pulitzer Prize-winning books such as Edward P. Jones’s “The Known World” and Chris Gardner’s “The Pursuit of Happiness,” which was turned into a film starring Will Smith. He praises the popularization of black authors and the expansion of the stories of marginalized people, which has become the focus of the 37 paints, in his own footsteps at Simon & Schuster.

“I think a lot of people would say that she’s probably the leading black woman in the editorial publishing world. However, there are other black editors and I don’t want to ignore them by any means, but Dawn is high,” Karp added.

(LR) Dawn Davis, Michaela Angela Davis, Tatyana Ali, Eunique Jones Gibson, Jazmine Sullivan and Beverly Bond during the BGR on the Black Girl Magic panel stage!  Fest - Day 2 at Kennedy Center on March 9, 2019 in Washington DC.
Karp said he saw his success as “remarkable” and hoped to continue the rest of his career at Simon & Schuster. But in August, Davis shared the news of his departure with his boss, colleagues, and authors.

“I feel like I lived through my memorial,” Davis said. “I’ve heard it this many times, ‘This is great in person and very good for Condé Nast and the magazines too. But in terms of book publishing, it is a loss. “For a long time, I was a champion of black tones and people in color in general, as well as quality publications.”

But the editor-in-chief of Bon Appétit played a role he could not refuse.

“I always talk about food”

Early memories of Davis ’food revolve around the family. He recalled going to Marie Callender in Los Angeles with his family – a weekly ceremony meant his mother and aunt could take a break from cooking. He loved his Christmas Eve when his aunt made gumbo and invited not only family but also neighbors and friends to enjoy it.

“The joy and selflessness Aunt Stella gave for cooking for others,” Davis said. “I connect food, community and celebration, and togetherness.”

Later, while living and working in New York, Davis was exposed to a vibrant restaurant life. He became a regular customer of the Scandinavian hotspot Aquavit, where he began a lifelong friendship with executive chef Marcus Samuelsson.

“He wasn’t just a regular customer,” Samuelsson said. “It was like, ‘Why are you doing this?’ What’s in the food here? “He had questions around the food.”

Bon Appétit, editor-in-chief of Dawn Davis at home, in his kitchen.

Davis said her husband teases that she remembers the specific details of the meal – but not what was discussed during the meal. “I say, ‘Oh, my God, yes.’ I had the pork ribs with the sage butter and the blistered green beans, and for me too … “In the meantime, I won’t remember something super, very important. It’s a funny insight into how I treat food as a priority.”

Although Bon Appétit is Davis ’first job in magazines, it won’t be his first experience in food journalism. He conducted interviews with such famous chefs, including Edna Lewis and Bobby Flay, who wrote his 1999 book “If You Canstand the Heat: Tales from Chefs and Caterers”. Karp said he was unaware of Davis’ love of food, but he “could have guessed” as he had recently obtained a cookbook for the publisher.

“No preconceived notions”

Davis is not the only fresh addition to the Bon Appétit team. In addition to working as a consultant, Samuelsson hired Condé Nast Sonia Chopra, former director of editorial strategy at Vox Media’s Eater, as executive editor. Chopra’s admission was announced the same day three color journalists resigned from their videos of Bon Appétit’s Test Kitchen.

According to Chopra, Davis, whom he had not yet met but heard of, welcomed the election.

Screenshot of a video where Bon Appétit editor-in-chief Dawn Davis talks to Bon Appétit managing editor Sonia Chopra and chef Marcus Samuelsson, who is also Bon Appétit’s global brand consultant.

“I think the media is an industry that can be very strict,” Chopra said. “Dawn – someone who has been such a leader and such a great power in the field of publications – is really coming into the industry with a clear eye and has no preconceived notions on how to bill a magazine or what the beginning of the book is. so refreshing. ”

Davis took a study tour at his new job, asking questions and making comments about Condé Nast’s culture and treatment of individuals.

“Some of the people I talked to were colorful people who felt they were being listened to, that they were being respected, and that there was obviously something to be done,” Davis said. “But these challenges have not deterred us from this opportunity. Honestly, most American companies of a certain size and a certain length have this job.”