Foodies and devoted followers of online drama may recall the implosion of Bon Appétit in 2020 following revelations of a toxic, racist, inequitable culture within the culinary brand, and the slew of high-profile resignations by executives and hosts of the popular Test Kitchen series on YouTube. The scandal blew so wide that it led to a spinoff reckoning for Reply All, a podcast that attempted to cover the story, and inspired a TV show now in development at HBO Max.
But through all this tumult, one of the chefs, Brad Leone, stayed the course, and continued to produce the cooking show he’s had since 2016. It’s Alive with Brad is an exploration of how to incorporate food cultures like bacteria and yeast in the kitchen, often to achieve fermentation, Leone’s specialty. Despite the complexity of these processes, Leone affects a goofy, himboish manner — the very quality that made him a Bon Appétit standout back when their content was more stuffy and formal — and makes you feel that he’s just trying out some new ideas, man.
Well. That casual adventurism has led to a couple of what we’ll euphemistically call “incidents.”
Last year, Bon Appétit was compelled to delete a video in which Leone showed viewers how to preserve mussels and lobsters in jars by heating them in a pan of water. The online canning community — did you ever doubt such a thing existed? — pointed out that his method ran afoul of FDA guidelines and, if followed as shown in the edited clip, might lead to botulism poisoning, which requires immediate emergency care and can be fatal. This month, Leone is once more in (figurative) hot water for sharing a technique to make “beef pastrami with the use of celery juice and sauerkraut juice as our curing agents instead of pink curing salt.”
Critics including restaurant industry watchdog Joe Rosenthal presented evidence that Leone had failed to account for, and even downplayed, various food safety concerns, ultimately failing to cure the meat, again putting anyone who tried the recipe at risk for severe poisoning. Bon Appétit slapped a disclaimer on the YouTube video, while the Instagram post drew harsh comments.
No illnesses have been definitively attributed to Leone’s recommendations — unless you count the commenter who claimed to have suffered “mind boggling diarrhea” after preparing brisket as he did. Still, it’s not ideal to have anyone with a mainstream platform selling the public on hazardous cooking hacks. Or is it? The fact is, if you’ve stuck with Bon Appétit through the various cycles of their disgrace, and you’re actively defending Leone from the experts warning against copying his mistakes (as many fans are!), you probably deserve a day or two of hot diarrhea.
One way or another, you’ve got to learn your lesson. This fancy-pants magazine with the rich galoot trying to convince everyone that they need “fermented popcorn seasoning” and should make ribs sous vide style… is not your friend. You need to come back to planet Earth.
One of the many unfortunate things about, say, COVID-19 misinformation is that it harms even the people who don’t buy it, since the unmasked and unvaccinated help to spread the virus. Where it comes to Brad Leone’s disastrous kitchen practices, the pool of victims is basically limited to the sycophantic admirers foolish enough to imitate him, and they’re the subscribers who had no problem continuing to support Bon Appétit after it was exposed for paying BIPOC employees substantially less than white staffers. If the brand wants to punish what’s left of their previously gigantic audience, with that demographic’s willing cooperation, I’m sure not going to stop them. Knock yourselves out, everyone! You’re all doing valuable, amazing work.
They should call it Bad Appétit, am I right folks? Hahaha. Anyway, I’m off to take a normal shit.