Like most people, my interest was piqued by Bon Appetit’s Claire Saffitz and her show “Gourmet Makes.” Soon, Saffitz’s show and Bon Appetit skyrocketed to stardom. With Bon Appetit’s growing YouTube presence, new chefs and new shows began popping up, ranging from the chaotic “It’s Alive” to the calm “Test Kitchen Talks.” As Bon Appetit’s YouTube channel became more popular, a steady presence started to appear in the background: Sohla El-Waylly.
Sohla El-Waylly was the tranquil go-to person. Failing at tempering chocolate? Go ask her. Need help figuring out spices? Find El-Waylly. Puzzling out a cooking technique? Look for the expert El-Waylly. Video after video of Bon Appetit’s popular shows illustrate how vital El-Waylly was to her more famous coworkers.
Leaving Bon Appetit, Undercredited and Underpaid
With her expertise being showcased in every video, it was not long before fans started calling for El-Waylly’s own show. When she appeared in the video “3 Chefs Cook Pasta Carbonara 3 Ways: Traditional, Modern, Experimental,” her role as the expert was cemented and her creativity was clearly displayed, as she turned carbonara ingredients into funnel cake and ice cream. User Seth H commented on the video with thousands of likes from other users: “Give Sohla her own ‘experimental show’ PLEASE!!!” Like many other fans, I wanted to see her with her own show. As months passed without a peep about any upcoming shows starring El-Waylly, I chalked it up to her being shy and not wanting one — I could not have been more wrong.
Over the summer of 2020, Bon Appetit’s hidden racism was thrust under the spotlight with former and current employees sharing their experiences. El-Waylly revealed on her Instagram that she was only paid $50,000 a year, a sum that is less than her fellow cooks’, despite her having more knowledge and experience. Additionally, she revealed that “only the white editors are currently paid for their video appearances.” Instead of calling for El-Waylly’s own show, angry fans flooded comment sections on old videos demanding El-Waylly be paid fairly. For instance, in that same carbonara video, user ASENBAISEN wrote, “Sohla flexing her genius and NOT GETTING PAID.” His comment currently holds over 4,900 likes. Similar comments — also with thousands of likes — fill the comment section.
If you want to see evidence of her contributions to the test kitchen, just look up Sohla on YouTube — there are many videos that have compiled all the instances that El-Waylly has been shown to be more knowledgeable than her higher-paid coworkers. Videos like this one — “Every time Sohla shared her expertise and Bon Appetit didn’t pay her.” Or this one — “Sohla being the most qualified chef at Bon Appetit.” Or this one — “Sohla El-Waylly Saving Everyone Else’s Asses at Bon Appetit’s Kitchen.”
Current Ventures On Youtube and Beyond
Luckily, El Waylly did not disappear from the internet after she left Bon Appetit. She joined a few food publications: as a resident at Food52 and as a contributor for NYT Cooking. Besides just developing recipes and writing articles for them, El-Waylly is also contributing to their YouTube videos. She has already made three videos with Food52 and two videos with NYT Cooking. Additionally, she is guest judging on various shows, including “Dishmantled.” However, her popularity on YouTube re-exploded with her joining “Babish Culinary Universe” (formerly known as “Binging With Babish”). This time, she has her own show called “Stump Sohla.” In this show, El-Waylly is presented with a standard food item or concept, but she has to put a spin on it by spinning a wheel with twists written on it.
In her first video, Andrew Rhea, the man who started “Binging With Babish” and El-Waylly’s co-host, wants her to make mac ‘n’ cheese. After spinning the wheel, she ends up on the category “18th century,” which means that she has to make mac ‘n’ cheese with 18th-century technology, materials and food. Her creativity and research skills carried her through as she learned to cook mac ‘n’ cheese on a fire. With her being front and center, her warm personality, dimpled smiles and hilarious interactions with other people have dazzled old and new fans. As user c b puts it, “watching this made me realize how much BA dampened sohlas personality, she’s so funny and adorable but on BA she just seemed shy.”
Besides her 18th-century mac ‘n’ cheese video, she has several others: “7-course Convenience Store Tasting Menu,” “Soup and Ice Cream on Fire, Scary Candy,” “Food Illusions: Movie Snacks” and “Astronaut Thanksgiving.” In every video, her creativity shines bright. For example, for her convenience store tasting menu, she makes a delicious foam from coffee-soaked blueberry muffins and a cordon bleu from cheap coffee and potato chips. Besides El-Waylly, who else could have come up with that? As Joelle Leong writes in the comments, “Look at this. This is her with all her mad genius unleased. What a queen.” When she makes more ordinary food, such as the food from her Thanksgiving video, her explanations are clear, allowing curious potential chefs like me to follow along. Her interactions with Rhea, which is mostly Rhea trying to steal her food, leave me giggling.
Her popularity is not limited to a small subset of fans either. Her mac ‘n’ cheese video currently has 2.5 million views. Her other videos boast similar numbers. In total, her videos have 10.3 million views. Not to mention, in one day, 30,000 new subscribers were added to the channel.
While Sohla El-Waylly may not have received the recognition she deserved at BA, she certainly has now. With her creativity, personality and knowledge, she is a chef that can captivate any audience. I look forward to seeing her on-screen more, and I highly recommend people to start watching her videos.