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



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

“And I thought, ‘Jovis,’ and I thought, ‘Well, it’s not working because I have no magazine experience. It just will not work,'” Davis told CNN Business in a telephone interview earlier this month.

“Dawn thinks from 30,000 feet. You want to see it through the content,” Samuelsson told CNN Business. “It’s going to change dramatically. It’s going to be dramatically more inclusive, and then it’s affecting the industry, and it’s forcing our competitors to look at that space. It̵

7;s necessary.

The food media industry has long been accused of promoting a “white aesthetic” that promotes white chefs and personalities, as Navneet Alang wrote for Eater. This summer’s bill on racial injustice prompted many to examine and proclaim participation and bias in their own industries. Those in the food media saw Rapoport apologizing for his “shortcomings,” and Los Angeles Times food critic Peter Meehan losing his job over allegations of toxic or discriminatory behavior. Meehan apologized, but also said that a number of the accusations against him are not true. Just before the summer, The New York Times put cooking colonist Alison Roman on leave after she criticized Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, two successful color women. Roman apologized, saying she was “deeply embarrassed” by comments she made.

Davis joins Bon Appétit as something of an outsider – not only because she is 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 no madneophyte. She has written and edited books on food, and as an avid home cook, she is known for being on the side of “living to eat” rather than “eating to live.” Will it be enough to renew trust – from employees, advertisers and readers – to Bon Appétit?

“If you can not see it …”

After graduating from Stanford, Davis started his career on Wall Street. Her job as an analyst at an investment bank was demanding and 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 Harvard Business School track, and everyone had to – and continued to – get those unjustifiably successful jobs on Wall Street. I just had to follow this passion to learn how to cook and play in the kitchen, and I did, “Davis said.

Dawn Davis participates in

In 1989, she won a scholarship to study literature in Nigeria. Davis said she loved reading books at a young age, but she did not know it was possible to have a career in the book business until the flight to Nigeria, where she sat next to a book publisher on the plane.

“They say, ‘If you can not see it, you do not know you can be,'” Davis said. “I just had never met anyone who actually published books.”

But jumping from Wall Street to book publishing was financially risky. Davis said the career change meant cutting her salary in half. She took the plunge anyway, even after her friends and family questioned her decision. But she loved the job so much that at one point she thought, “When they discover how much fun I have, they will cut my salary.”

“Lived to see my memorial”

Davis rose through the ranks and worked at some of the world’s most famous publishers, including Random House, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. Despite being new to the field, she quickly gained confidence in her ability as an editor.

“I knew I could be a lawyer, a great advocate for any book that I was passionate about,” Davis said. “I never doubted that a writer would have someone who was more passionate, who would prick more me and cross more T’s than me and just edit it to the Nth degree.”

In the 1990s, while working at Random House, Davis met Jonathan Karp – the publishing director who would later recruit her to Simon & Schuster, where he then became CEO.

“We both share a deep interest in cultural works without professional literature,” Karp told CNN Business. “Dawn has a great presence. I liked her the moment I met her.”

He recalled that they tried to buy Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation” together, but did not succeed.

Davis has since edited Pulitzer Prize-winning books such as Edward P. Jones’ “The Known World” and Chris Gardner’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” which was transformed into a film starring Will Smith. She is praised for promoting black writers and reinforcing the stories of marginalized people, which became the focus of 37 Ink, her own imprint at Simon & Schuster.

“I think a lot of people will say she’s probably the leading black woman in the editorial world of publishing. There are other black editors, though, and I will not in any way overlook them, but Dawn stands tall, Carp added.

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

“I feel like I lived to see my memorial,” Davis said. “I’ve heard this more than once: ‘It’s great for you personally, and it’s good for Condé Nast, and it’s good for magazines. But it’s a loss for book publishing.’ I had been a proponent of black voices in particular and people of color in general and just quality publishing for a long time. ”

But editor-in-chief at Bon Appétit was a role she could not reject.

“Always talking about food”

Davis’ early memories of food are about the family. She reminded me to go to Marie Callender in Los Angeles with her family – a weekly ritual that meant her mother and aunt could take a break from cooking. She loved Christmas Eve when her aunt made gumbo and invited not only family but also neighbors and friends to enjoy.

“The joy and selflessness that my aunt Stella gave to cooking for other people,” Davis said. “I connect food and community with partying and just being together.”

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

“She was not just an ordinary customer,” said Samuelsson. “She was like, ‘Why are you doing this? What’s in the food here?’ She had questions about the food. ”

Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Dawn Davis at home in his kitchen.

Davis said her husband teases her for remembering the specifics of a meal – but not what they discussed while eating it. “I want to say, ‘Oh my god, yeah. You had pork chops with sage butter and the blistered green beans, and I had …’ In the meantime, I can not remember anything super, super important. It’s a funny insight in that way. , I prioritize food. “

Although Bon Appétit is Davis’ first job in magazines, it will not be her first experience in food journalism. She interviewed celebrity chefs, including Edna Lewis and Bobby Flay for her 1999 book, “If You Can Endure the Heat: Tales from Chefs and Restaurateurs.” Karp said he was not aware of Davis’ love of food, but “could have guessed it” when she had recently acquired a cookbook for the publisher.

“No preconceived notions”

Davis is not the only new addition to the Bon Appétit team. In addition to acting as an advisor, Condu Nast hired Sonia Chopra, former director of editorial strategy for Vox Media Eater, as managing editor. Chopra’s job announcement came on the same day as the three color journalists’ resignation from Bon Appétit’s videos from Test Kitchen.

Chopra said Davis, whom she had not met but had heard of, was a welcome choice.

A screenshot from a video where Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Dawn Davis chats with Bon Appétit Executive Editor Sonia Chopra and chef Marcus Samuelsson, who is also Bon Appétit's global fire advisor.

“I think media is an industry that can be very isolated,” Chopra said. “Dawn – a person who was such a leader and such a powerhouse in publishing – really comes into the industry with clear eyes without any preconceived notions about how a magazine should be billed or what a front of book is. I think it will be so refreshing. ”

Davis has been on a listening tour of his new job, asking questions and commenting on the culture and treatment of individuals at Condé Nast.

“Some of the people I talked to were people of color who felt they were listened to, that they were respected, that there was clearly work to be done,” Davis said. “But these challenges did not scare me away from this opportunity. Honestly, most American companies of a certain size and of a certain existence have this work to do.”


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