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Leave Alison Roman alone

Time to be Frank about the much criticized celebrity chef

Another day, another Alison Roman drama. The Instagram-famous celebrity chef and bestselling cookbook author was infamously canceled a few years weeks ago over her snide remarks about fellow lifestyle personalities Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. Now, the journalist Yashar Ali, a friend of Teigen, has circulated a photo of Roman dressed, he initially alleged, as a chola, or ‘a young woman belonging to a Mexican-American urban subculture associated with street gangs’. Roman contends the costume was a poorly-considered attempt at an Amy Winehouse get-up in 2008.

Someone dug up the photo on Roman’s old MySpace, and Ali justified sharing it because of a recent and apparently very real conflict at Bon Appétit, where Roman used to be a senior editor and still contributes, and also because of the extremely well-publicized Teigen/Kondo incident. Roman apologized on Twitter, calling herself an ‘idiot child‘.

It’s not clear yet whether this latest accusation will stick to Roman’s brand, but I want to suggest something to you now, before the inevitable next brouhaha and before any more ink is spilled over this indiscretion in particular: Alison Roman is simply annoying. I say this lovingly, as a fan. I think this aspect of Alison is misunderstood, because she is beautiful and wealthy and successful and it’s easy to impute intention to her problematic actions, but in fact, the character trait that gets her into so much trouble is her basic annoyingness.

She speaks in vocal fry with ubiquitous, sardonic catch-phrases: she drinks ‘all the wine’, or her friends are ‘amazing humans’, or she’s ‘here for it’. She may even, occasionally, have ‘feels’. In the way of educated white millennial women, she’s disingenuously self-deprecating — ‘I’m so intense’ — and ironically aggressive — ‘if you don’t like anchovies, what are you even  doing here?’ She has what I might describe as ‘Resting Instagram Face’ (chin down, eyes up, pursed half-smiling lips). She changes her hairstyle more often than I change my clothes, and her wardrobe is expensively unflattering-on-purpose. These behaviors are performative or obnoxious or cloying, but at bottom, they’re designed to get your attention, whether you like it or not: they’re annoying.

Of course she was nasty in that interview; annoying people try too hard to be funny. Of  course she wore an ill-considered Halloween costume — see above re. annoying people — and then defended herself by saying she was a ‘child’ at age 23. What are wealthy white millennials good at if not extended adolescence, prolonged permission to be as attention-seeking as an actual child?

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Her offenses, in other words, are largely against good taste. Being annoying may lead to thoughtless nastiness, but it’s not a hate crime. So why the drive to cancel her? Because these traits are the hallmarks of a blithely privileged group — young, affluent white women. In other words, her screw-ups are the other side of the same coin that made so many people love her in the first place: her arch flippancy, her highly-stylized Instagram, her appearance of no-b.s. frankness. We liked her because she was the apotheosis of a certain kind of gentrified Brooklyn trendiness; now we dislike her for the exact same thing. What were we expecting?

Since the Teigen/Kondo incident, Roman has rent her (cool thrift store) garments so completely that she hasn’t posted a recipe since April 29. Instead, she uses her enormous platform to fundraise for Homeless Black Trans Women and petition to defund the police. She is reading the books, she is sharing the resources, she is issuing profuse and heartfelt apologies to strangers in her mentions. Meanwhile, I have made her Blackberry Cornmeal Cake 8,000 times in the past three months. Alison’s Spicy Meatballs in Brothy Tomatoes are the only thing my father and I have agreed on in weeks. I am making her Olive-Oil Fried Lentils with Cherry Tomatoes right now.

Leave Alison Roman alone, everyone. I don’t like her politics, either, and I don’t even like the Shallot Pasta, but surely how much she’s harmlessly annoyed all of us is outweighed by how she’s enriched our lives with shortbread cookies, preserved lemons, and all — all — of The Dip.

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