The Untold Truth Of Alison Roman

If you know anything about millennial cooking, you probably know Alison Roman. After publishing her indulgent, Brooklyn-chic recipes in bestselling cookbooks like 2017's Dining In, Roman shot to the upper echelons of celebrity chef stardom. As of 2021, Roman boasts over 500,000 Instagram followers and an impressive resume that includes stints at Bon Appétit, BuzzFeed Food, and The New York Times. After leaving her role as columnist for The New York Times in 2020, due to a controversial and public Twitter spat with Chrissy Teigen (via Page Six), Roman continued to publish recipes online through social media. Then, in January 2021, she launched a new weekly YouTube series called Home Movies (via Instagram).

While Alison Roman may be a somewhat controversial figure in the cooking world due to her public fall-out with Teigen, among other factors, her comfort food-meets-fine dining recipes epitomize contemporary New York-style cooking. In fact, as The New Yorker wrote, "Part of the appeal is her grasp of her audience: the financially unsteady millennial generation, which has turned "nothing fancy" into an aesthetic choice."

Curious to find out a little more about this cooking star? Here is the untold truth of Alison Roman.

Alison Roman wanted to be a writer in high school

Long before Alison Roman became the superstar chef and cookbook writer she is today, she was just another American high school girl with big dreams. As Roman explained to Into the Gloss, "I wanted to be a writer in high school." She clarified that writing cookbooks wasn't really her goal, at least not for a long while. While Roman did cook growing up, she never thought it would become a part of her writing career, which she kept separate from her time in the kitchen.

In fact, Roman even went on to study creative writing in college. She didn't think about cooking professionally until meeting her college boyfriend. "I had this boyfriend who loved cooking," she explained. "He got me into cookbooks — they excited me." Soon, Roman had changed her plans and was studying cooking with the chef at one of her favorite restaurants.

Even though Roman didn't end up writing fiction as a career, her creative writing certainly came in handy when it came to writing her cookbooks, which have won praise for their accessibility and for Roman's unique, unmistakable voice that comes through even in her writing.

Alison Roman worked as a recipe tester for Bon Appétit

Although Alison Roman decided to become a chef in college, she didn't jump straight into making her own cookbooks. In fact, one of her first jobs outside of a restaurant kitchen was at Bon Appétit, where she worked as a recipe tester. It was, to all appearances, a pretty straightforward job. "Basically, you get a recipe, and you cook through it to make sure it works," she explained to Into the Gloss.

For Roman, this was actually a great learning experience. For one thing, it helped her realize what she wanted to do with her cooking skills. Instead of cooking for others, she wanted to help them make their own meals. "I was still cooking every day, but I was cooking to help other people cook, which was more interesting to me," she said. 

As Roman told Fast Company, she developed a few mottos during this period. "No matter where you live, or what kind of grocery store you have access to, or what size kitchen you have, you can make really great food," she said.

Alison Roman prefers to cook in a small kitchen

While most famous chefs would probably all claim to prefer working in an expansive, fully-equipped kitchen, Alison Roman is a little different. In an interview with Delish, Roman showed off her relatively small New York apartment kitchen. "My kitchen, I always say, is kind of small." The square room features a small counter space and a large wooden table in the center. Roman went on, "It's actually quite a big room but the space that I have to work with is pretty tiny, so I'm pretty much always either right here or right here." Essentially, Roman only has one edge of her table to work with as she stands in her kitchen.

And it turns out, Roman actually likes things this way. With her compact space, Roman explained, she can quickly move between the counter, the sink, and the stovetop. In Roman's estimation, this tiny area in which to work makes her a speedier and more efficient cook, perhaps better than if she were subject to a larger, more spacious cooking area.

Alison Roman is not a fan of diets

Unlike some of the other celebrity chefs of the modern age, Alison Roman is not a big fan of restrictive eating. In an interview with the Los Angeles Review of Books, Roman explained, "With anything in my life I am really trend-averse, and I think diets are trend-based." As she went on to say, in her experience, depriving herself of food just ended up feeling like a bad eating experience. As she put it, "I don't think of food as discipline, I think of it as pleasure."

So, instead of marketing her work as diet recipes, Roman made recipes that she enjoyed. In 2020, The Cut claimed that Roman's indulgent recipes made her the perfect cookbook author for lockdown, saying that Roman "conveys the authority of knowing exactly what she wants, and she is credible in part thanks to the extreme clarity of all she does not like." It's pretty clear that Roman's firm anti-diet stance has made her a unique and coveted recipe-maker in a time where many simply don't want to worry unceasingly about calories or healthy eating myths for every meal.

Alison Roman cried when she made it to The New York Times Best Seller list

Alison Roman may seem like she's embraced the celebrity lifestyle and come to terms with her fame. However, back in the day, she never expected to have the platform that she has today. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Roman recalled the shock she got when her second cookbook took off. When Nothing Fancy reached The New York Times Best Seller list, she said she "literally had to pull over to cry."

For Roman, the milestone was a hugely emotional turning point in her life and career. "It was the only goal I'd ever really set for myself," she said, "and I thought it was super unattainable and so the fact that it happened was a really crazy thing. " After becoming a columnist for The New York Times in 2018, it must have felt pretty amazing to see her own book recognized by the publication itself.

Alison Roman got into trouble for comments about other famous foodies

Prior to 2020, it's safe to say that Alison Roman was pretty popular with everyone for her accessible approach to food and cooking. However, after a controversial interview with The New Consumer, Roman's popularity took a serious dip. In the interview, Roman spoke about the famous minimalist Marie Kondo and about model and fellow cookbook author Chrissy Teigen, suggesting that they had both sold out. "The idea that when Marie Kondo decided to capitalize on her fame and make stuff that you can buy, that is completely antithetical to everything she's ever taught you," said Roman. As for Teigen, Roman said, "She had a successful cookbook. And then it was like: Boom, line at Target [...] That horrifies me and it's not something that I ever want to do."

Teigen reacted to the interview on Twitter, writing, "This is a huge bummer and hit me hard." Roman then tweeted an apology. Writer Roxane Gay noted that, though she enjoyed Roman's recipes, it was "lousy that women of color were the target of [Roman's] disdain [...] That said, some of y'all wait for your favs to make a mistake so you can let loose." (via Vox)

The uproar that followed led to Roman's departure from The New York Times shortly thereafter (via Newsweek). Roman and Teigen have since made peace with one another.

Alison Roman thinks taking vitamins is super important

Alison Roman may not be a big voice in the diet cooking industry. Neither are some of her recipes what you would call stereotypically healthy. However, she is definitely into health in her own way. As the cookbook author told Into the Gloss, "I'm not a health food person — that's just not my lifestyle. But vitamins? Probiotics? Do I ever!" For Roman, vitamins were a discovery she made later in life. While she had initially been skeptical about the utility of taking vitamins, as she got older, she found that she needed them.

"I noticed a huge uptick in my energy levels [after taking the vitamins], and in my skin, my hair — everything improved." Roman also gushed about probiotics, explaining, "Because of the way I eat, they help keep things right." In order to stay healthy, Roman also exercises regularly, including sessions of yoga.

The three things Alison Roman always has in her kitchen

So, what does Alison Roman actually keep in her own kitchen? In a video tour with Delish, she showed off her kitchen and pantry staples. "Three things that you will always find in my pantry," she said, "are probably chickpeas, big fan, love chickpeas." Her second must-have pantry item is tinned fish, especially anchovies. "I love anchovies, I would put them in everything if I could," she gushed. Finally, Roman said, she always has a wide array of spices on her shelves.

Roman also usually has some preserved lemons stocked somewhere in her fridge. "If I don't have a full jar in here at all times I start to panic," she said. She also always has wine, hot sauce, Parmesan, and cherries. One thing Roman never has? An avocado. "I don't eat avocados, I don't cook with them, they're not my thing," she confessed, making it clear that avocado toast simply isn't a thing in her kitchen. Sounds like Roman isn't always the stereotypical millennial cook we thought she was.

These are Alison Roman's go-to lunches

Even though Alison Roman's cookbooks are filled with relatively easy-to-make recipes, she doesn't always cook for herself. As the cook revealed to Bonberi, "If I don't have too much work, I'll take myself out to lunch. I love eating lunch alone." She added that she's not a big fan of quick cafes. Instead, she prefers a long, luxurious lunch enjoyed while dining out.

Roman also spoke to The Gannet about her habit of eating out for lunch. "It's a nice thing to do," she said. "Otherwise I will work until I get so hungry that I'm cranky and not able to function properly." Sometimes, though, Roman also makes her own lunch at home, presumably while in the midst of working on videos and recipes. "In the winter, soups, and in the summer, cold noodles or salads with lots of tahini and things like that — heartier salads, fridge-clean-out stuff," she explained. 

Alison Roman became a skincare obsessive after turning 30

Once you learn that Alison Roman loves her healthy vitamins, it should come as no surprise that the cook also likes to take excellent care of her skin. As she revealed to Into the Gloss, her skincare habits shifted dramatically when she turned 30, oftentimes a point where many people reflect on how they are or aren't taking care of themselves. Roman, like so many of us, seems to have started out by being pretty hard on her skin.

"Before I was 30, I sort of existed in this way where I drank as much as I wanted to, I'd forget to wash my face, and I never moisturized," she confessed. "But recently, I joined the cult of P50." P50 is a product that offers exfoliation, hydration, and pH balance all in one, which Roman says has made a dramatic change to her skin.

She went on to explain that the product had resolved her mild rosacea and cured her dull, dry skin. Plus, she added, she always wears sunscreen to protect her skin, a generally well-accepted piece of skincare advice.

Alison Roman's first cookbook was about lemons

Even though Alison Roman's first big cookbook was Dining In, she actually published another cookbook before that. The book was published by Short Stack, which, as Roman told The Gannet, is "a small imprint, and they make cute little cookbooks, no photos, just 20 to 25 recipes." Her first cookbook, she went on to recall, was all about lemons. "I use lemons in pretty much everything I cook," she explained. "When I'm developing recipes, I really have to rein it in." It sounds like Roman really got to let the reins loose with her first lemon-centric volume.

The book was called, of course, Lemons and was published in 2015. As the description of the book reads, "From the juice to the peel and everything in between, Alison Roman's ode to lemons covers every inch of sour ground." We have to admit that this super creative cookbook sounds pretty great, especially if you can't get enough of sour, tangy food.

This is what Alison Roman ate as a child

Alison Roman's cooking style is definitely unique, with its rich flavors and sometimes unusual ingredients. So, did she grow up eating preserved lemons and crafting interesting pasta bakes in the kitchen of her youth? Well, as Roman explained to Bonberi, her childhood meals were a little different, but one thing has stayed the same. "I grew up on vegetables," she said. Roman grew up in California and her parents actually grew their own artichokes and asparagus. "I love that people are paying attention more now," she said, referring to the plant-based meals and lifestyles that are proliferating nowadays.

While Roman includes plenty of meat recipes in her cookbooks, she's clearly also very comfortable with all-veggie meals thanks to her parents' cooking style. As she recalled, "You could serve a dish of roasted cauliflower to my dad and he would enjoy it as he would a plate of pork." Sounds like Roman's vegetable-heavy upbringing gave her a real appreciation for meatless dishes.

Traveling helps Alison Roman come up with new ideas

Alison Roman is constantly surprising fans with fascinating, creative dishes. As she explained to Bonberi, she gets a lot of her new ideas while traveling. "Every time I leave the country I'm insanely inspired," she said. "Even [when I'm traveling] to other states." As Roman went on to explain, she always pays close attention to the local food when she's away from home. For instance, when she was in Portugal, she noticed the high-quality seafood that was practically everywhere during her visit, including a bag of canned fish that she squirreled away in her luggage.

In fact, Roman is always sure to bring back a few culinary souvenirs from every place she visits. Just don't tell customs. As she confessed, "I end up smuggling quite a bit back. You just have to pack with confidence."

Roman also chatted to Conde Nast Traveler about how traveling inspires her in the kitchen. As she explained, grocery shopping is her favorite way to get a real sense of the local food and of the culinary traditions that are part of wherever she's visiting. And as for her own recipes? "I think there's a little bit of everywhere I've been in everything I write," she said.

Alison Roman has a penchant for designer bags

Like many women, Alison Roman simply cannot resist a good bag. In an interview with Glamour, the famous chef opened up about the vintage designer bag that she was just desperate to get her hands on. The bag in question is the 1995 Chanel chain shoulder bag. "I've always wanted, like, one of those vintage, like, from the eighties quilted Chanel bags with the gold chain," she confessed. However, as Roman explained, the bag was way too expensive to justify the inevitable hit to her bank account.

"Growing up I never coveted anything involving fashion... but there's something so iconic about that, I'm like, 'I want that, I want that so bad,'" she went on. She even explained that every time she signs a new cookbook deal, she thinks about rewarding herself with the bag. We can hardly blame her. It doesn't get more iconic than vintage Chanel.