Alison Roman is seriously rethinking her cabinets. “I just redid my kitchen and I’m panicking that I fucked up,” she says. She’s calling from the Brooklyn loft where she films Home Movies, her popular YouTube
cooking series. Roman’s proclivities, both aesthetically and culinarily, consistently set trends amongst her followers, and she’s not sure overly yellowy cabinets should be the next big thing. “I definitely need to repaint them and take them down to a creamier off-white situation,” she says.
The 37-year-old chef is in the midst of a long tour promoting her latest cookbook, Sweet Enough—the first in her arsenal to tackle desserts. Like the cookbooks that came before it, Dining In and Nothing Fancy, Sweet Enough is a dive into relatively easy recipes that can be made without fancy ingredients or chefs’ tools. Amongst the book’s highlights are the Raspberry Ricotta Cake, which can be made without a mixer, and the Old-Fashioned Strawberry Cake, which tastes fried but isn’t because, as described on its corresponding page, “I will not heat up a large pot of oil and drop in the batter and fry, hoping I have not undercooked the insides or overly fried the outsides, then have to deal with the hot oil—even typing that feels exhausting.” Creating the recipes for Sweet Enough was the first time that Roman had explored desserts in a big way since working as a pastry chef at restaurants like Momofuku Milk Bar in her early days. “The freedom to have things not be perfect all the time is very important, and it’s not something you see very often in dessert books,” she says.
In her columns for Bon Appetit and New York Times Cooking, Roman became famous for her anything goes approach to food, throwing caution to the wind with suggestions that made cooking feel like adventure. “So, the recipe calls for one shallot, but because I’m a fucking bitch I put five,” says comedian Chloe Fineman in a 2020 Instagram parody of one of Roman’s viral recipes (the skit is called #TheFish, emulating Roman’s #TheStew or #TheCookies). “So what, I want to smell like a shallot. Sue me!” These Romanisms—along with others like an unabashed love for anchovies and a distaste for “entertaining” (she prefers having people over)—are entrenched in Millennial culture.
Roman’s passion for anchovies, as evidenced by her hefty portions in viral dishes like the Caramelized Shallot Pasta (an entire can for one recipe) ignited a continental renaissance of the salty fish. “I’m obviously not the first cook to use anchovies, but I did feel really passionate about them in a way that I wasn’t afraid to constantly talk about—even in the face of people being like, ‘that’s disgusting.’ I felt comfortable having an opinion even though it was unpopular, and now it’s popular,” she says. When I tell her that I use my own love of anchovies to weed out timid paramours on my dating profile, she laughs, saying, “I feel like if people aren’t into anchovies, you’ve gotta keep it moving. You can’t keep those people in your life.”
Roman relishes the outsized role she’s grown to play in people’s lives. And you could say she’s in her comeback era after working her way back from a messy 2020, during which she caught the eye of the celebrity cancellation storm for her criticisms of Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen, both of whom had recently capitalized on their fame with product lines that—to Roman—felt antithetical to the values they espoused. That both women were of Asian descent escaped Roman, resulting in a maelstrom of upset amongst fans and especially media members. “It’s a thing that I have discussed ad nauseum and I’m really so tired of talking about it, if I’m being honest,” she says. Everyone, according to Roman, has moved past it, something she’s eager to embrace in this new chapter.
“It feels good to know that for the most part, I wake up and get to do something I really want to do, and people seem to be really happy with it,” she says.
Sweet Enough: A Dessert Cookbook by Alison Roman is available at Indigo and indigo.ca.
Photos courtesy of “Sweet Enough” Copyright © 2023 by Alison Roman. Photographs copyright © 2023 by Chris Bernabeo. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.