Labor is a racket. You spend 40 hours a week, or more, making money for someone else, only to have to give a third of your much lower salary away to a landlord who doesn’t return your texts. Even in so-called dream jobs, you have to deal with pettiness, arguments, boredom, and workplace rivalries—all distractions from the thing that you were hired to do. The only job that seems like an unending good time is working at cooking magazine Bon Appetit’s Test Kitchen, which has become a viral sensation online.
The videos are well-produced, the personalities are charming, and everyone on camera always seems preternaturally good at their jobs. What I covet isn’t talking about food all day, but the moments of coworker-to-coworker interaction. In an episode of a series where chef Molly Baz learns how to cook something totally new each episode, her coworker Sohla El-Waylly sees her struggling with an enormous fried ostrich egg and spontaneously decides to help her make an equally large tortilla for a very large breakfast taco. El-Waylly is working on her own project at the time, but she makes the time to help a coworker because she can. It feels collaborative and uplifting, the ideal of what I imagined full-time work would be as a child.
Last night, I fell asleep while watching the members of Test Kitchen make what they had decided was the perfect pizza. They were in Bon Appetit food director Carla Lalli Music’s parents’ house, cooking somewhat contentiously together, but working as a team despite their disagreements.
These Bon Appetit videos can only seem so comforting because they are tightly controlled snippets of a work life that we’re only seeing in fragments. We don’t see the moments where everyone is pissing everyone else off. We only see the arguments that are friendly. We aren’t ever going to see anything but the most flattering portraits of these people.
This illusion of a workplace that’s driven by collaboration rather than competition is the what the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen videos are selling, more so than a subscription to a magazine or clicks to a website. I need to believe in a workplace that is not ultimately driven to create capital for a boss who doesn’t know my name. That’s not my current reality (nor, I suspect, is it the reality of the Bon Appetit employees), but it’s something I’ll fall asleep to and dream of.