By Jasmine IVANNA Espy
As Editor-In-Chief of Bon Appetit, Dawn Davis succeeds Adam Rapoport who worked for the Conde Nast brand for two decades. His resignation came following backlash from a 2004 photo that resurfaced via social media picturing Rapoport in an offensive costume.
Davis not only oversees Bon Appetit, but has editorial control of Conde Nast subsidiaries Epicurious, Healthyish, and Basically which includes print, digital, social media, and video. In recent interviews, Davis stated her goal is to focus on exploring the impact of food in daily life and how it influences broader issues.
Davis, 55, is a graduate of Stanford University and was born in Los Angeles. Before she found her passion for publishing she pursued a career in Wall Street. She redirected her path when she realized the role was unfulfilling. This led her to take her love of reading and make a career out of it. Unsure of what steps to take next, someone close to her recommended she apply for a Rotary Scholarship which she won.
She soon left her role at The New Press to join Vintage at Random House which opened the door to her becoming a publisher at HarperCollins' Amistad, the most respected and storied African-American imprint in publishing, Amistad was founded in 1986 to specialize in the works of authors who honor and consecrate the memory of those who fought—and continue to fight—for freedom.
At Amistad, she edited by Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edward P. Jones, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man by Steve Harvey, and Chris Gardner's The Pursuit of Happyness.
It comes as no surprise she has transitioned into such a prestigious role at Conde Nast not only because she is a home cook, but she is the author of If You Can Stand the Heat: Tales From Chefs and Restaurateurs where chefs such as Edna Lewis and Anthony Bourdain are profiled.
In an interview with CNN Business Davis says she is interested in the people and culture behind the food, "Bon Appetit and Epicurious both have recipes but I hope to broaden that lens. I think the pandemic has shown us how everything is connected. So, I want to talk about how food is connected to the environment and to the people to the suppliers and of course to how we live. Every memoir of an immigrant or a first gen that I have edited there's a scene where they talk about lunch and how they dreaded it because they would be teased or they would be bullied. Our job at BA is to turn a, 'What's that?' [disgusted] to What's that?! [curious]"
This led her to actually launch a section called What's That? where cultural cuisines are explored. Under her leadership she has also combined her love of food and books to launch a monthly Instagram Live show on Bon Appetit's Instagram called Book Report where she interviews authors who love food or write cookbooks. As an ode to the holidays and an opening to a brand new year, she oversaw a special December/ January Bon Appetit holiday issue which was guest edited by Chef Marcus Samuelsson featuring recipes by Sophia Roe and Claudia Martinez, and an added poem by Nikki Giovanni.
Davis is one of the very few women of color leading a Conde Nast subsidiary. While Conde Nast has a long way to go in addressing systemic inequalities in pay and treatment amongst its staff of color, appointing Davis as EIC is the first step in the right direction.