Amanda & Merrill

What We're Doing About Our Lack of Diversity

by:
February  9, 2017

After the Presidential Election, we sat down and wrote a letter to all of you, asking for your ideas about how we could do a better job bringing people together around the table to share their commonalities and celebrate their differences.

Photo by Bobbi Lin

You sent more than a thousand responses and we read every one (it took us a while). We want to start with the topics that bubbled up most frequently—the most prominent of which was a call for diversity.

Many of you said you’d like to see us cover a broader range of topics—specifically non-Western cuisines and food cultures, as well as budget-friendly recipes, meal-planning strategies, and home design tips.

Shop the Story

At our core, Food52 is about aspiration and inspiration. We strongly believe there is a need for both. In the weeks and months ahead, you’ll see more content that broadens the scope of how we aim to inspire our readers by embracing the true diversity of our culture. That means more articles and tips geared towards a range of budgets, more personal narratives, and more stories about the people who are the backbone of the food industry. To accomplish this, we’ll be calling on a larger and more varied pool of writers and experts with personal or professional experience in these topics. (Please drop us a line at [email protected] if this sounds like you!)

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I love the idea of diversity in all areas, but especially in the food and recipes. I lived overseas for years, travelled and tasted it all, and there is sooo much that delights out in the world. I'll cite Macau as one of the most delicious places I've ever been along with some roadside camp cafe's in Cambodia, and the lusciousness that is Barcelona. I'd love to see small business success stories as well, of all types, as relates to food, much like the very enjoyable Bundt story you ran recently. I even shared that one to FB. Hole in the wall Asian, or Indian or African eateries that have a loyal customer base and signature recipe kind of thing. There's a duck place in Beijing like that, you have to go deep into the hutongs to get to it, but famous people around the world make pilgrimages to it! Places like that would be awesome to read about. I look forward to new stuff!”
— Anita G.
Comment

Some of you pointed out that our Team page doesn’t exactly scream diversity—which is very true in some ways, and in others not. We are proud to be a women-led company in a men’s world. Our team includes many more women than most tech startups (unlike others, we’re always working to add more men to our roster). But we are also a company that is 92% white, 60% 30 or younger, with enough liberal arts degrees between us to paper a decent-sized bathroom—pretty typical of food media at large.

Here’s how we became that team:

As a venture-backed media company, we have felt pressure to demonstrate consistent growth. We've worked hard not to compromise the quality of our content and editorial voice, and to cover topics beyond the expected and ubiquitous. It takes determination—not to mention business risk—to widen the sphere of accessible, familiar foods in this country beyond chocolate chip cookies and pizza. Few in food media have stepped up to the plate, Saveur and Lucky Peach being notable exceptions.

Early on, when we had very limited resources (and hardly any revenue), we relied on unpaid contributors. This led to a stable of writers and photographers who mostly came from more privileged backgrounds.

Since then we have taken on outside funding, but not on a grand scale, which means we’re still scrappy: We don't have an HR department, and the truth is that we have prioritized speed over reaching beyond our existing networks to target the largest pool of candidates.

But we won’t let ourselves off the hook. We’ve thought about these issues (and discussed them with each other) often. Now we want to talk more publicly about making diversity and inclusiveness—within our ranks and throughout what we cover—a priority. Yes, this is the right thing to do; equally important, we believe it's also good for our business.

Here are our goals for this year:

  • Increase minority representation on our team. As a first step, we’ve added new language to our Jobs page and we’re posting on job boards with more diverse audiences (we’re always looking for additional boards, so please share any recommendations on this front).
  • Bolster the diversity of topics we cover and writers/photographers we call upon to do so.
  • Host and facilitate more inclusive potlucks and community gatherings around food. Not long after we launched Food52, community members started getting together to cook from the site and socialize. We plan to get back to facilitating these gatherings, and to host more potlucks of our own.
  • Forge partnerships with brands and individuals who speak to new audiences and share our belief that embracing diversity is the way forward.

To the 1000+ of you who responded to our note: thank you. This whole process—making us think about what we think about when we think about food—is an inspiring example of the community in action. For that, we are truly grateful.

—Amanda & Merrill

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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110 Comments

Vanessa M. February 20, 2017
Oh, well, maybe in a few months... (sigh)<br /><br />Re: Diverse Contributing Writer / Photographer (Vanessa Middleton) - RECIPE PITCHES<br />From: Sarah Jampel<br />To: Vanessa Middleton<br />Date: Mon, Feb 20, 2017 12:13 pm<br />Hi Vanessa,<br /><br />Thank you for following up! We don't have space in our editorial calendar at the moment, but please feel free to reach back out in a few weeks or months and to send more pitches my way! And I'll definitely keep your name in mind when we're looking for writers who are experts in upscale Southern food!<br /><br />Best,<br />Sarah<br />
 
Kristen M. October 20, 2017
Hi Vanessa, I just noticed your comment and I'm so sorry for the radio silence. (This is surely too much information, but we need a better system to alert us to comments on articles that we publish collectively from the Food52 profile.) Thank you for your pitches—someone from our editorial team will be reaching out to follow up shortly.
 
anne R. February 16, 2017
I am a big fan of Food52! I've purchased many items from their website - you girls have amazing taste. <br />I saw Amanda on CBS Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago and she really was a great interview. I love everything you do and I love what you stand for. Keep it up.
 
Christopher B. February 15, 2017
So a nice cross section of opinion.<br />I also want to thank Amanda for a piece ofadvice from back when she was working for the Times Ie. you can assemble a soufflé hours in advance, refrigerate it and pop it into the oven when you're ready. It makes serving a soufflé child's play.
 
lynn R. February 15, 2017
Balderdash. Hooey. I cannot believe people wrote in saying you were not diverse enough. I'm Jewish from Holocaust survivor parents. You did not hear from me that I did not see any Jewish foods, or German foods..I think it is great that two women started this web site and should be very proud. So what if it is 60% white. People need to be hired based on their qualifications. So, does this mean that a white person will not get the job? I think this is all nonsense. We are talking about FOOD. Not rocket science. Did it every occur to the people complaining, that you are not diverse enough that black people, or Chinese people are just not interested in your field? That Jews and Muslims are just not interested. I am a pastry chef. Let me tell you, you do not see a lot of Jews as chefs or pastry chefs. So does that mean, that the industry is not diverse enough? Maybe everyone should boycott the show Top Chef because a muslim has not been picked or a black person has not won. I feel our country has really "lost" it. My parents came to this country after the war. They learned English. They did not take a dime from the gov't. They worked 2 jobs. And I am sure there were jobs they did not get because they were Jewish. And let me tell you all, that anti-semitism is on the rise. Much more so than the so called hatred for Muslims. You just have to look what is going on in the EU or our own college campus's....I say, stick to what you are doing. You cannot please everyone.
 
Laura W. February 15, 2017
I love Food52 and was on the original post way back in Nov where people were asking about adding more diversity to food offerings...Michael Twitty's fantastic article about growing up a gay, black male in the South was a perfect example...his sharing of his experiences did not threaten me or who I am in any way and I was made more informed about someone who is unlike me and found universal similarities through his food experiences...no one is telling anyone how to vote or how to be...just that the requests (and there were a lot, they were not made by 1 or 2 people) for more diverse sharing of experiences was heard and this is how they are proceeding...Saveur is also a magazine that focuses on small subgroups of folks and what they are cooking and eating and they do focus on many areas outside of NY/LA/SF, where many of us acknowledge there are very rich culinary communities...sidenote: I am a NYer and I am not a fan of the term "flyover states", just as I am also not a fan of the term "costal elite"...so let's all agree to stop any name calling and finger pointing...I want my recipes but I also want introduction to people and their foods I may not have a chance to meet elsewhere...it's a big big country and there's a lot to know about...thanks Amanda and Merrill
 
Betty February 16, 2017
I agree with you completely. I also read many articles about foods from different regions. I also appreciated your civility and thoughtfulness.
 
Author Comment
Food52 February 15, 2017
Hello All -- thank you for weighing in. For anyone who commented here before reading our first post, "Our Answer to 'Politics Don't Belong on Food52'" (https://food52.com/blog/18961-our-answer-to-politics-don-t-belong-on-food52), it might help to take a look at it for context. For the past few years, we've been intensely focused on building this business and haven't had as much time to share our views. Both of these posts were part of our effort to dive back into communicating with you more often, as we did in the early days. We believe that transparency on the part of brands like ours has real value, especially when it's part of a larger community discussion.<br /><br />As we noted in this article, Food52 will continue to cover a range of topics -- some of which may be viewed as political. We are by no means switching gears, or attempting to recast ourselves as a platform for political debate, but we will not avoid covering relevant topics just because politics are involved. We embrace and celebrate diversity of all varieties, and we are working to do a better job of this. But diversity of opinion does not extend to harassment or discrimination of any kind. We try to be vigilant but we can't monitor every comment; if you see anything on the site that qualifies as harassment or discrimination, please let us know so we can consider either removing the comment or banning the commenter.<br /><br />Now let's eat!<br /><br />Amanda & Merrill
 
DjeenDjeen February 15, 2017
I applaud you for addressing this important issue with courage and authenticity and also for drawing back the curtain so we fans can see your entrepreneurial path in its fullness. In addition to the steps outlined above, you can also consider using the power and influence of the Food52 community and social platforms to lift up the work of innovative, talented and diverse voices such as @jbakernyc @soulfoodscholar @extracrispy @KosherSoul
 
Christopher B. February 15, 2017
So now the conversation is getting ugly. Thanks Mario
 
John W. February 15, 2017
Thank you Sally!! Keep politics out of my kitchen, off my plate, and out of my mouth, thank you!!! As far NYC being diverse, just read the NY Times and figure it out for yourself <br />John a 70 yr. old from NJ/NC
 
Betty February 15, 2017
I was astonished to read some of the comments, especially those who said they would quit the community because they don't agree with the aims of the founders of the site. There is an easy solution without quitting - when you see that an article is too political for you, don't read it - just go on to the next one that concerns only food!
 
Luisa F. February 15, 2017
My mother always told me: we do not talk about religion and politics with our guests. And never ,but never about money! She was right!
 
lastnightsdinner February 15, 2017
Food52 is not just a website about food. It is a community. A community is by definition a group of individuals brought together by a common interest (here, food and cooking), but Merriam-Webster also defines a community as "an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location."<br /><br />Variety implies diversity. Diversity is, or should be, part of the very fabric of what Food52 is.<br /><br />I have been part of the Food52 community almost since the beginning. I have watched it grow and change, not always in ways that felt relevant to me and my life, but I have always appreciated the founders and editors' efforts at inclusion, and I applaud them for admitting that there is far more work to be done on that front. <br /><br />The only reason to speak out against diversity is because it threatens white supremacy. When you do so, it tells me everything I need to know about who you are and what's in your heart. And one thing that has been true and evident about the Food52 community from the very beginning is that there's no place for that kind of hate at this table.
 
healthierkitchen February 15, 2017
yes.<br />
 
Mario T. February 15, 2017
^bravo!
 
DjeenDjeen February 15, 2017
#truth
 
Panfusine February 15, 2017
Well said, Lastnightsdinner! on the dot!
 
Trish B. February 15, 2017
I love your web site but wondered if you have a wish list. I saw something I'd like to buy but can't get it right now and would like to save it somewhere.
 
Olivia B. February 15, 2017
Hi Trish! If you go to the product page, there is a button underneath the product that says "Save". If you click that (and are signed in) you will be able to save it to a collection that you can return to later (Click your user profile in the top right corner and select favorites + collections). Let me know if that helps!
 
Jim S. February 15, 2017
love your web site, but count me as a former customer. Too much PC BS.
 
melissa February 15, 2017
Jim Skucy, eh? Is this the same Jim Skucy who is the Executive Director of the Benton Franklin (WA) Head Start program? The program whose vision statement, according to its website, is to prepare children for “productive citizenship in a global community,” and which features two brown children on the front page? If not, then disregard.
 
Jim S. February 15, 2017
The same. Retired after a 45-year career in HS in 2014.
 
Natasha February 15, 2017
Melissa, we have come a long way since then. Laws were written. I just want people to come here legally and want to be citizens. I don't want them burning our flag. It is a fact that blacks and Hispanics will outnumber whites in the next 10-15 years. All I am saying is who will they blame for not being hired on then. I am tired of the feeling that when you own a business you have to hire color and background, not who is best for the job.. That is all I was saying.
 
bsque February 15, 2017
Hi Natasha,<br /> I think it's ok to admit that you're uncomfortable with our country's changing demographics. I think it's ok to relate a story about your business and how you felt pressured to hire a person of color who was not qualified (if something like that did in fact happen). But... that's not how your comment comes across, at least to me. I'm... guessing you didn't intend to cause offense. ??
 
magda February 15, 2017
I am so sorry you feel this way and that you are scared that blacks and Latinos will outnumber whites. Remember blacks are Americans brought here by whites as slaves. They are not immigrants <br />Hiring people of color doesn't meant they are NOT qualified. That is offensive, and because of the laws people have been trying for 20 years (why they have 5 kids is another offensive assumption) and have not been able to get there citizenship. Funny how everyone loves salsa and wraps but not the people who originally made them.
 
Natasha February 15, 2017
I am having a discussion. It is a fact that blacks will outnumber whites soon, ask anyone who is black. I live in a city that is 76% black. I am half black and half Jewish so don't put the racist crap one me. We have many Hispanics here due to the field work that they do. YES, they do have many kids because they want to stay here, I see mothers and daughters pregnant for that reason.. Talk to them, maybe you will get a better insight. I love Hispanics, I have friends that I have worked with and partied with. You are the one making this racial.. I am saying LEGAL is the word.. I want people to be legal. I want people to be hired because of their brain not their color. That is not being racist. You are the one who said people told you to hire more people, since you are white, they meant people of color and different backgrounds. So, if you hire them now, you are doing it because you are being pressured to do so.. ALAS my point.. Don't do it because a group tells you to do it, hire people that are best for the job. (black,white,brown,yellow,hispanic). I have worked with more diversity than most. MILITARY NURSE.. so don't push your racism on me. You asked my opinion and my opinion is Hire someone who can do the job. Tell ILLEGALS to get legal if they want to stay. We have a constitution and it says that they are not to stay if they don't want to be citizens and live by OUR laws.. simple.
 
Laura K. February 15, 2017
Thank you SO much for embracing this difficult work. Every act is a political act and food even moreso! We make political choices (whether we are aware of it or not) with every purchase of an ingredient (where was it grown? how was it grown? who harvested it? how were they paid/treated?), every grocery store we choose to shop in (do we shop locally, supporting local vendors and communities of colour?), and every culture we choose to learn about through their food (do we honour the traditions and learn about the history of the people who created this type of food?). <br /><br />It can be difficult to examine these things, especially from a position of privilege. We all like to think of ourselves as good people, so when we are confronted with the unintended impact of our actions, we get defensive. It's hard, soul-searching work and I commend you for taking the time to open your hearts and your actions to inclusiveness.
 
Natasha February 15, 2017
I have no problem with diversity. But, I do have a problem with people living and working in our country Illegally. There is a difference between legal and illegal. They have the right to come here to work with the right papers but they should become citizens. Living here 20 years and 5 kids later is wrong if you haven't even tried. Pretty soon the whites or privileged whites will be the minority, then what will we do when there are more black and Hispanics.. All of this has become insane. I come to you to get advise on cooking, not politics. Don't bend to please some political group. You are doing a good job, although I will say, some of your goodies are too expensive. Enjoy your site.
 
melissa February 15, 2017
white settlers were the original people "living and working in our country Illegally" when they colonized native land.<br /><br />i won't bother with the rest.
 
Picholine February 15, 2017
There it is! Yup! I waited and you did not disappoint!
 
melissa February 15, 2017
history's a b*tch!
 
DeniseLev February 15, 2017
Growing up in the Midwest, the dismissal of much of our great nation as "flyover country" was and continues to be so irritating to me. I fear that in this effort to become more inclusive (which I applaud, by the way) certain geographies are still being politicized and, therefore, dismissed. Don't forget about our great many friends in food who live between NYC and SF/LA. Let's use food to reconnect one another across this great country, in addition to connecting across races, ethnicities, gender, etc.
 
Sally February 15, 2017
I come to this site for culinary information, not to be lectured to on "diversity" or other leftist memes. As much as I've enjoyed and appreciated what I've learned in this site, I've been increasingly annoyed and put off by the insertion of politics. So far I have shrugged it off as the "price" to pay for the benefits, but my visits to the site are declining precipitously. I have also purchased from your shop, but not frequently because most of your items are absurdly expensive, if not actually overpriced, and aimed at a highly privileged clientele. Not much "diversity" there.
 
melissa February 15, 2017
sorry sally. diversity ain't a meme... it's a pure, hard fact, especially for those of us in NYC, and increasingly for those in more rural places as refugees resettle and immigrants revitalize economically depressed communities.
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
Let's hope Amanda and Merrill are listening. Apparently there is a large silent majority out there. But, lets not be too harsh. Just want my nonpolitical website back
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
Get a grip! Blah, blah, blah
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
Meant for Melissa. Blah!
 
melissa February 15, 2017
deborah, perhaps what you're not hearing is that amanda and merril have committed to the stance that food is inherently political.
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
Not to me, Melissa. Food is love and comfort not confrontation. Now I am done. Like I said. I just want the food talk
 
melissa February 15, 2017
sorry that racial diversity is "confrontation" and not love and comfort to you, then.
 
Picholine February 15, 2017
Melissa, I don't think speaking out is being confrontational. That's what diversity is all about. Food is apolitical as far as I can tell. Let's not make it another reason to divide.
 
Sally February 15, 2017
My last comment on this: it's not the diversity that is confrontation; the confrontation lies in the sanctimonious lecturing to the audience. No one would have a problem with Food52 expanding their culinary horizons and contributors. But just do it! Stop casting it as a virtuous act of the high minded. As to the notion that food is "inherently political," by extension pretty much anything can be, and increasingly is, politicized. I would suggest, however, that a business be careful going down that road; it risks alienating a sizable number of customers. Looks like deborah and I, and maybe countless others, may be leaving the Food52 leftist echo chamber soon.
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
Amen
 
Picholine February 15, 2017
Agree. Think all the lecturing about diversity and NYC, rural immigrants etc. etc. belongs in the $500 stewpots sold here. Ok I'm out of this too.
 
Andrea F. February 15, 2017
Diversity in the workplace, diversity in society, diversity in the culinary world is not a political stance, nor is it a specific partisan one. It should make us all sad when someone says that being pro-diversity or pro-equity means that we are asking for liberal stances. What is even more sad is that what this statement infers is the opposite for the other side - is this really what one intends to infer? I really hope not. We should be careful about making such statements. Furthermore, this type of rhetoric sets out to do our society, especially from a culinary perspective, much anthropological harm. To say we don't want diversity or a difference of opinion strictly because we believe it is political in stance, is ignorance in and of itself. We have to lift each other up, we have to be there for each other whether we agree or choose not to agree. I do not agree that diversity and equity in the workplace, which in this case means on the web, means a liberal stance. It means an equitable stance...one that in inclusive for all, inclusive of those who think freely. Even if you don't agree with something, an equitable site gives you the right to read what you want and disregard the rest. The way it stands currently, many of us are left out of the culinary conversation - heritage recipes are posted with little consideration from a cultural standpoint. But, it seems many do not understand this because of their own life experiences and this, too, is understandable. But, don't name call and shame the rest of us for wanting to be included in the conversation. We deserve the right to be included. If you make tacos on Tuesday, or pasta on Monday...people of color and cultural heritage expect to be included in the conversation. This is not political...it is anthropological, equitable, and just plain human. Please leave politics at the door...let us have a safe place to ask to be included without letting American historic guilt and unacknowledged privilege come into play. If you want to argue about politics go to Facebook.
 
Picholine February 15, 2017
One more thing Melissa, you don't even use this site...haven't collected or contributed one recipe. Why are you even here?
 
melissa February 15, 2017
i actually DO use this site for recipes and collect them in my 1000000 open tabs. i don't contribute my own though (i am not advanced enough of a chef).
 
melissa February 15, 2017
isn't the fact that some of us see food as a realm of politics, and others don't, signal that food is inherently a political issue? <br />
 
melissa February 15, 2017
it's possible that the post "what we're doing about our lack of diversity' is not a "lecture" to those who see diversity as "political" and therefore inappropriate. **IT'S ACTUALLY A RESPONSE TO THE USERS WHO HAVE REQUESTED MORE DIVERSITY ON THE SITE!**
 
melissa February 15, 2017
i see. when people who advocate diversity utter something, it's "lecturing." when those who get the heeby jeebies from the word "diversity" utter something, it's "speaking out."
 
bsque February 15, 2017
Sally, I'd like to ask you to imagine for a moment that it's not sanctimonious. Can you see this at all in a slightly different light? Can you imagine good intentions, an implicit apology, an earnest will to do what's right? How might they have worded this differently to make it acceptable to you? I ask with my own earnest hope to understand how someone saying "I want to do better" elicits such a sharp and negative reaction.
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
I Love your website. And I did not see your request after the "election".<br />Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought you were a food website not a political blog. I am all for your diversifying your content, but if the political discussions continue I will have to unsubscribe. Follow your format with recipes and products that I will love. I am tired of Actors, Musicians, and now you telling me how I should feel. It's not your place. FOOD52 should be about food. Period.
 
Picholine February 15, 2017
I agree wholeheartedly and I was a little reticent to share my opinion as there is such vitriol out there. Don't want my favorite foodie site to fall in with the current political climate. It's not cool, so please stay above the fray!
 
bsque February 15, 2017
Weird. I didn't see that they've told you how to feel. You can agree with how they feel, or not agree. You can stay or go. You can comment and show your displeasure, which you've done. But you can't mischaracterize their intention and then complain about your own fiction, not to mention that you're trying to dictate how they work, what they write about. Tomorrow, they could make this a site about pelicans- it's up to them and their investors, not up to you.
 
deborah D. February 15, 2017
That is correct. They are cetainly free to do what they like with their website. Then all the pelican people could follow their love of pelicans. Again, I just want the food.
 
bsque February 15, 2017
Sorry Deborah, I red herring'd my own comment. Ignore my pelicans. Do you agree that they haven't told you how to feel? They're not telling you how to vote, or what to cook, or how you should do your job. Is it the politics in the comments that bothers you? I'm just not seeing it in the original post. The original post seems to be only about admitting that diversity, largely lacking up til now, might be a good thing.
 
Margaret February 15, 2017
I agree with you Bsque. Amanda and Merrill ( & staff) never in my opinion told their community what to think. They were being transparent about what they think. They have probably worked their a#*es off creating this delicious food site for us. Funding it,nurturing it,finding help they could afford when starting it,testing recipes giving us back their impressions about a recipe. Phew,makes me weary thinking about all the work it takes to create such an exquisite website and maintain its community. I am emensly greatful for what they have given us with food52. I am also greatful,that in the same generous spirit of cooking meals for those we love and care about... they are looking to cook up new foodie horizons for us. They are listening to the community and finding new ways to expand and embrace other food experiences and expressions from all the wonderfully diverse peoples ,places ,and ingredients on this planet. Thank all of you at food52. One more thing,if somehow in your connected food universe you find out some secret agenda is about to push through a law that will poison our food or tamper with it somehow... and you share that with the food52 community to make us aware. I don't consider that political coercion. I consider that protection and making me aware so I might have the freedom of choice to do or not do something about it.So I say " Kale Yeah" bring on the awareness!!