Food Well Done

Internet-Breaking Chef Alison Roman Shares a Very Important PSA

Portrait of Alison Roman. All photography by Chris Bernabeo. All images courtesy of Roman.

For most people with a palate, Alison Roman needs no introduction. The chef, food writer, and Internet maverick has molded many a millennial—and not only—with her unruffled attitude in the kitchen, matter-of-fact branding (A Newsletter, The Pasta, The Cookies), and mordant yet accessible personality. Her previous books, Dining In and Nothing Fancy, are studies in embracing imperfection and improvisation. Sweet Enough, her newest, echoes this spirit, offering recipes for all levels of dessert enthusiasts, including people who just can’t stand them. Amidst all the buzz surrounding the book, Roman took a moment to call up CULTURED and talk dessert fatigue, bodega orders, and the ingredient that’s keeping her together during book tour.

CULTURED: Where are you calling from?

Alison Roman: I’m in a car in Hollywood, which is very Hollywood of me.

CULTURED: How are you feeling about Sweet Enough’s reception so far?

Roman: It's been absolutely beyond. I was feeling a little… not nervous, but just managing my expectations, because it's a dessert book. And not being a dessert person myself, I could imagine people not being as excited about this book as the others. But honestly, people are so, so excited. It’s not just the people that are into baking, it's also people being like, “I've never baked a thing in my life, and I just read this book and it's great.”


CULTURED: Are we having a dessert moment right now, or is the book’s success because it’s you and dessert?

Roman: I'd like to think it's because it's me. But it's also getting warmer, and there's more produce and fruit. When people see fruit, they're like, “I love fruit, but I don't know what to do with it.” Turning it into something like jam or a baked good is a natural progression, because we so rarely cook savory food with fruit … So I think it has to do with the weather changing, and also that I haven’t made a book in three years. I feel like that’s exciting for people hopefully.

CULTURED: Three words to describe Sweet Enough’s ethos?

Roman: Imperfect, unfussy, and joyful.

CULTURED: You’ve spoken about your love/hate relationship with baking and desserts in general. How are you feeling about sweets today?

Roman: Today I’m on the enough part of Sweet Enough. I’ve been talking about them and making them nonstop for the past few weeks and months. I’m very much in need of a cheese plate.

CULTURED: What have you been wearing on book tour?

Roman: Diane Keaton and Meg Ryan are my North stars right now… I wrinkle things, I stain things, I work in them, so I need pieces that can be forgiving. I have a pair of pants from The Row that I've been getting a ton of mileage. They're just the perfect high-waisted slacks that look really amazing out of the suitcase and go with pretty much any vibe, whether I'm cooking or going out. And then a lot of vintage stuff, like this really cute Alaia cardigan tank set from the 90s. I’ve also been mixing that energy with a lot of the new J. Crew stuff, which has been great for basics and button-downs. They’re well tailored, and if I spill something on them, I’m not going to freak out. And I’m definitely going to spill something.


CULTURED: What’s the best thing you’ve eaten on book tour?

Roman: I’m eating at really weird times right now, like lunch at 3:30 pm, skipping dinner, and having breakfast at the airport at 7 am. I did go to this restaurant called ILCHA in San Francisco, which is basically Korean drinking food. It really blew my mind.

CULTURED: What’s the dish that represents where you’re at in life right now?

Roman: Honestly, a glass of Athletic Greens. I just need a powder that’s going to give me nutrients to make sure my body can stay functioning.

CULTURED: What’s your go-to bodega order when you get back to New York?

Roman: It’s gonna be an egg sandwich on a roll with American cheese, salt, pepper, hot sauce. And a sausage patty if they have it.


CULTURED: Best song/food combo?

Roman: I’m staying in West Hollywood, which I like because a lot of it’s walkable and I’m from New York… Wow, that is the first time I’ve ever said that! I live in New York, so walking in LA feels novel to me. But I was drinking an iced coffee, it was 71 degrees, I had just gotten my hair blown out, and I was listening to “Karma” by Taylor Swift. And I was like, Wow, I’m really living my life out here. So iced coffee and “Karma” is a really good combo. [Laughs] You’re like “what’s your favorite food right now,” and I’m like, “liquids, hydration, and caffeine.” I promise I’m also eating solid foods.

CULTURED: You gotta do what you gotta do to keep the body together! Do you have anything to say to the readers of Sweet Enough?

Roman: #1, the recipe for the Salted Lemon Shortbread is incorrect. The sugar is double what it should be. I’m going to issue a correction in my newsletter, but if you have the book now it’s going to be incorrect.

CULTURED: That’s a major PSA.

Roman: Front page news, you heard it here first. But really, thank you for buying it, and taking a chance because baking recipes will really do you dirty. I tried to do right by everybody, and I take it really seriously. It’s a lot of time and effort to make dessert!