If you were on Twitter over the weekend, then you know that arguably the biggest feud since Drake vs Meek Mill was taking place on our timelines—only this time it was in the world of…cooking? On May 7, The New Consumer released an “in conversation” interview with chef and writer Alison Roman. The interview—which was a verbatim transcript-style Q&A (with minor edits for length and clarity), was meant to be an engaging and candid discussion with the cookbook author about her growing popularity (she’s pretty much the millennial Martha Stewart minus the cool friendship with a rapper), how she creates her recipes and what’s next for the rising star. But what started out as a nice little chat completely spiralled after Roman made some *pretty* mean (and some have argued racist) comments about other women in the cooking space, specifically Marie Kondo and Chrissy Teigen. Roman is quoted as saying that the latter had people “running a content farm for her;” something that “horrifies” her and that she would never aspire to. And then Teigen—and the internet—responded.
Here’s everything to know about the feud, including why Teigen is now taking a break from Twitter. Sit back and relax, because the tea is *piping.*
Quick Q: Who is Alison Roman?
ICYMI, Alison Roman is a Brooklyn-based cook and writer. Over the past year, she’s become well-known for her easy, tasty and *very* millennial aesthetic-y meals, and as the author of two bestselling cookbooks: Dining In and Nothing Fancy. You’ll probably recognize some of her aptly titled recipes like “The Stew” and her caramelized shallot pasta from some of your friends’ recent dinner parties (pre-pandemic, of course) and IG posts.
She’s also a bi-weekly columnist for the New York Times Cooking section, and has become synonymous with a red lip and matching nails that I honestly wish I could maintain. Since we’ve been in quarantine and cooking up a storm, Roman has only gained popularity, recently going live on Instagram with Katie Couric for a cooking demonstration.
As she revealed in The New Consumer interview, she’s also set to begin filming her own cooking series, and has an upcoming capsule collaboration with cookware startup company Material. So, she’s doing pretty well for herself.
What did Alison Roman say about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo?
In her interview with The New Consumer’s Dan Frommer, Roman talks at length about her process of creating recipes (which, as she pretty much puts it, isn’t overthought or strategized). Similarly nonstrategic, she says, is her popularity and rise to fame. “There are dozens of recipes that I think are as good or better than the things that have become popular, except they were published five years ago, so nobody cares,” she says.
Roman then muses on fame and what it means to “sell out” in her industry. “I’m really sensitive to oversaturation,” she says, when asked if she plans to become the next GOOP (the lifestyle empire helmed by actor Gwyneth Paltrow). “I would also have to let go of so much control,” Roman says about growing her brand. “The idea that I would ever not do that—and that I would somehow lend my brand to someone else who’s going to approximate me—horrifies me. I’d rather stay small and always be myself.”
This is where she starts to cram her foot in her mouth. When asked about putting her name to a restaurant or products, she refers to Marie Kondo—the Japanese organizing consultant who has become famous for helping people tidy their lives and “spark joy,” and has also partnered with brands to sell organizational products. Roman says, “Like 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… I’m like, damn, bitch, you fucking just sold out immediately! Someone’s like ‘you should make stuff,’ and she’s like, ‘okay, slap my name on it, I don’t give a shit!’”
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As if that wasn’t bad enough (she literally called Kondo a sellout…and a bitch), Roman then goes on to seemingly mock Kondo’s accent, saying: “That’s the thing—you don’t need a ton of equipment in your kitchen to make great food. ‘For the low, low price of $19.99, please to buy my cutting board!”’ [In a tweet defending her comments, Roman clarified that the line “please to buy my cutting board” was an “inside joke” between her friends, referring to an Eastern European cookbook called Please to the Table.]
I was def not mocking anyone or anyone’s accent- the “please to” was from an eastern european cookbook called “please to the table,” which my friends and I love. We say “please to” as an inside joke that clearly does not travel well- I realize how that reads and feel embarrassed!
— alison roman (@alisoneroman) May 8, 2020
But, she wasn’t done. Literally a paragraph later, Roman decides to have a go at *another* woman in her industry—Chrissy Teigen and her Cravings line. “Like, what Chrissy Teigen has done is so crazy to me,” Roman says. “She had a successful cookbook. And then it was like: Boom, line at Target. Boom, now she has an Instagram page that has over a million followers where it’s just, like, people running a content farm for her. That horrifies me and it’s not something that I ever want to do. I don’t aspire to that.”
Why were people so upset about Alison Roman’s comments?
While Roman’s comments might initially just seem like mean-girl dragging other women down (which is bad enough), the real issue many people had was the fact that Roman’s comments were aimed at tearing down two women of colour who have thrived and found success in an industry dominated by (as, let’s be honest, most industries are) white people—in this case, white women.
I like Alison Roman’s recipes. I really like Chrissy Teigen and her various endeavors. That interview included some terrible takes. It’s lousy that women of color were the target of her disdain when this is a space dominated by white women. I mean come on.
— roxane gay (@rgay) May 9, 2020
And Roman’s remarks against Teigen and Kondo *do* seem quite specific and targeted when you take into account—as Xtra journalist Michelle da Silva noted—the fact that Roman didn’t have a peep to say about white women like Gwyneth Paltrow capitalizing on lifestyle content, except to muse as to whether or not the world needs another GOOP.
Alison Roman singles out Marie Kondo / Chrissy Teigen as sellouts, yet takes no issue w/ white women capitalizing on lifestyle content, asking “Does the world need another Goop?” when reflecting on her own brand. Says a lot about who she thinks is allowed to build global empires https://t.co/HJYIvtQZBP
— Michelle da Silva (@michdas) May 8, 2020
“Says a lot about who she thinks is allowed to build global empires,” da Silva tweeted.
This critique is especially important to consider because Roman is a white woman, and one who has been given access to, and the ability to speak for, the industry.
Forget Alison Roman, let’s talk about our industry that picked her voice to amplify, gave her the platform to write recipes indulging in peak appropriation, rewarded her privileged persona & called it “daring”. Gatekeepers: think about your own contributions to this fiasco.
— Chef Jenny Dorsey (@chefjennydorsey) May 9, 2020
And as many online pointed out, Roman has been critiqued before for essentially appropriating many cultural dishes; re-labelling Indian curries as “stew” and removing them from their cultural heritage and context.
I like Allison Roman and Ottolenghi & rely on them, but this comment kind of reveals my suspicion with the fanbase around them—if you disconnect techniques from their cultural background, the usage of spices seem precious for no reason. Also, lol at nostalgic for “salt & pepper” pic.twitter.com/8lo7wGv6XU
— ahmed ali akbar (@radbrowndads) May 6, 2020
So, essentially, Roman is continually appropriating and benefitting from these cultures in order succeed, but thinks *actual* Asian women who monetize their cultures are sellouts? Not cool.
I can’t stop thinking about how this Alison Roman shitshow is such, like, a Cynical Not-Like-Other-Girls Girl mocking two women whose whole appeal is that they’re genuine and sincere, essentially calling that sincerity into question because both women are financially successful
— Claire Willett (@clairewillett) May 9, 2020
To be fair, Roman did mention Teigen’s success. Despite being a sell-out, Roman said of Teigen: “But like, who’s laughing now? Because she’s making a ton of fucking money.” But still, not a great look.
What was Chrissy Teigen’s response to Alison Roman’s comments?
Shortly after criticism of the article started circulating on Twitter, Roman went online to respond, tweeting: “when women bully other women for being honest about money and how much they do or do not make, well, thats amore.”
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when women bully other women for being honest about money and how much they do or do not make, well, thats amore
— alison roman (@alisoneroman) May 8, 2020
Which is honestly a Lilly Singh response if I ever saw one. And, also, not at all what people were criticizing her for?
Shortly after, Teigen waded into the discussion, sharing her thoughts on Roman’s comments and criticisms of her. “[This] is a huge bummer and hit me hard,” Teigen tweeted. “I have made her recipes for years now, bought the cookbooks, supported her on social and praised her in interviews.” And then, she dropped the bomb. “I even signed on to executive produce the very show she talks about doing in this article.”
And what the *actual* fuck.
It’s one thing to drag down women in any space, but to *explicitly* call out a very famous celebrity who is supporting your career and success both figuratively and financially—yeah, that’s a horrible look.
Teigen then went on in her eight-tweet thread to talk about the fact that she started Cravings—her cooking company— “because I wanted something for myself. I wanted something John [Legend, her husband] didn’t buy, I wanted something to do that calmed me, made me happy and made others happy, too.” She also went on to say that the Cravings team consists of herself and two other women, writing: “I don’t think I’ve ever been so bummed out by the words of a fellow food-lover. I just had no idea I was perceived that way, by her especially. And Marie, too. Marie is awesome.”
In a follow-up tweet, Teigen bluntly summarized her feelings, tweeting: “anyhow. now that that’s out there, I guess we should probably unfollow each other @alisoneroman.”
In response to Teigen’s clearly PO’d tweets, Roman responded, tweeting back: “Hi @chrissyteigen! I sent an email but also wanted to say here that I’m genuinely sorry I caused you pain with what I said. I shouldn’t have used you/your business (or Marie’s!) as an example to show what I wanted for my own career-it was flippant and I’m so sorry.”
Hi @chrissyteigen! I sent an email but also wanted to say here that I’m genuinely sorry I caused you pain with what I said. I shouldn’t have used you /your business (or Marie’s!) as an example to show what I wanted for my own career- it was flippant, careless and I’m so sorry
— alison roman (@alisoneroman) May 9, 2020
Which, to be honest, is not a great apology. It comes across as more of a “I’m apologizing because everyone is reacting badly to what I said,” than a genuine “I’m sorry.”
What did Marie Kondo have to say about the comments?
For her part, Kondo has yet to respond to Roman’s interview comments or the backlash. TBH, this is probably a mess she just doesn’t want to get involved in, or—as many on social media pointed out—she probably just can’t be bothered by the hate—for a variety of (pretty funny) reasons.
Like the fact that Roman is just being a classic Karen:
marie kondo reading alison roman being a shady white woman as usual: pic.twitter.com/Mni0obZ8Sm
— audrey taylor ward (@udreytaylorward) May 9, 2020
Also Kondo doesn’t have time to be bothered, because she has a delightful giant bébé:
thinking about marie kondo and her large baby to make me smile 🙂 pic.twitter.com/WAF4aWTWmS
— colleen (@colleentie) May 9, 2020
I think we know who is the real winner here.
Why are people *now* mad at Chrissy Teigen?
In the days following the online dust-up, people on the internet sided with one or the other (with many in the food community coming to Teigen’s defence), and on May 10 Teigen announced via Twitter that she’s taking time off the site, making her account private in the process. “I really hate what this drama has caused this week. Calling my kids Petri dish babies or making up flight manifests with my name on them to “Epstein island”, to justify someone else’s disdain with me seems gross to me so I’m gonna take a little break,” the Cravings cookbook author tweeted.
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Teigen’s decision to go offline may have been in response to additional criticisms lauded at her. Many took the moment to remind people that Teigen herself isn’t exactly perfect, stating that she is a known “mean girl.” Others brought up a 2013 incident in which Teigen (in a now-deleted tweet) called then nine-year-old actor Quvenzhané Wallis a “small cocky child,” after seeing her at the Oscars. Then, Teigen liked a (also now-deleted tweet) by satirical site The Onion, which tweeted: “Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a cunt, right?”
I won’t forget how Chrissy Teigen used her platform to make fun of Quvenzhané Wallis, who was a child at the time. She’s also known for being shady and rude to others but now she wants to act butt hurt because Alison Roman threw shade at her culinary line? Oh well. 🤷🏾♀️
— Kia Richards (@KiaRichards_) May 9, 2020
We know Teigen prides herself on being funny, but that was definitely very un-funny. And Teigen’s treatment of Wallis was far from the last time the model exhibited bad behaviour. More recently, the entrepreneur defended actor Vanessa Hudgens for her seriously insensitive comments about COVID-19.
It remains to be seen what’ll come out of this Roman–Teigen–Kondo debacle, but one thing’s for sure: Roman can probably bet on not being invited to the Legends’ house for dinner anytime soon (and not just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic).