Meet Alison Roman
ON HER MORNING ROUTINE
I take Ritual vitamins, a hair, skin, and nail vitamin and probiotics every morning. In the winter or cold season, I take vitamin C, echinacea, and oil of oregano in a giant glass of water. Other than that, every morning is it’s own thing. I’m horrible at routine!
on moving to Brooklyn
In February 2008, I moved to a three-month sublet in Brooklyn, but it was only supposed to be temporary before I went back to San Francisco where I had been cooking for four years. Before that, I was cooking in LA, my hometown. After a month and a half in Brooklyn, I fell in love with this damn place and can’t imagine living anywhere else.
on being a writer and becoming a chef
I was always a writer but in a journaling, note-taking, “I need to process this” kind of way. Once I started cooking professionally at 19, I wrote recipes and ideas for dishes and dream restaurant concepts, so I put my usual writing on hold. I was left pretty drained at the end of 15-hour days in a professional kitchen, and when I left restaurants for the editorial world in 2010, I wrote regularly again. I was very rusty, and it was a rough start. My first assignment at Bon Appétit was a 75-word piece on swizzle sticks, or that stick in your tiki drink. It was so, so bad. I like to think I’ve improved since then.
on her culinary self-education
I learned to cook from watching the chefs and cooks I worked with. I didn’t go to culinary school, so I learned by observing, trying, failing, trying again, succeeding a little, failing again, and continuously trying. I read a lot of books, asked infinite questions, and watched everything. My first mentor, Ron Mendoza, taught me a bulk of what I learned as a pastry chef, and then William Werner after him. They were both instrumental in teaching me how to cook and develop a work ethic.
on her experience at Bon Appétit and buzzfeed
I don’t love talking about my experience at BuzzFeed because I don’t have anything positive to say and I was there for only a few months. Let’s just say that it wasn’t a great fit. A friend of mine, Helen Hollyman, who I met while working at Milk Bar introduced me to the food editor of Bon Appétit at the time, Hunter Lewis. I had an interview, then he put me to work in the test kitchen as a freelancer a few times a week. From that first week, I knew it was exactly where I wanted to be. I would show up even when they didn’t ask me to come in. That’s how badly I wanted it. They eventually made me a full-time staff member. There’s another story involving biscuits that may or may not have helped, but you’ll have to read Dining In for the full scoop.
on reaching her career goal at the new york times
Years ago when I was still at Bon Appétit, I had coffee with The New York Times editor Emily Weinstein to talk about potentially working as a contributor. Due to my position at the time, I was unable to work outside the Bon Appétit magazine. After I left BA and BuzzFeed years later, I reached out to Emily, and luckily for me, she was still interested. I contributed here and there for two years doing recipes and guides. This recipe for pancakes is my first one and maybe my favorite. Then we had the conversation about making things a bit more serious, and putting a ring on it, so to speak. After months of conversations with her and Sam Sifton, we made it official and I cried tears of joy for about 24 hours. Keeping things inspired and fresh is something I think about every day, whether it’s for the NYT column or a book I’m working on. I see things as belonging to a home, and sometimes when I have an idea, I have to think “Okay, where is the best home for this particular idea?” It becomes easier for me to keep things separate, that way I’m creating recipes and ideas for specific audiences.
on her go-to recipes and dishes
I really don’t have a favorite recipe! I cycle through so many recipes depending on the season and how I’m feeling. Right now, I have a turmeric-ginger-chicken broth on repeat because I’m getting over a cold. I’ll either have something like that on the stove all winter or noodles with lots of greens and chile oil. It’s my “I have 20 minutes to make something very good” recipe.
on her favorite tools in the kitchen
I prefer really basic tools like stainless steel or cast iron skillets. I use a fish spatula, tongs, and wooden spoons. Mixing bowls, cutting boards, and knives. I don’t love fancy things in the kitchen.
on her home decor
I just moved here this March. I was traveling most of the summer, so I’m still getting settled in. Ninety percent of my furniture is vintage and sourced from local spots like Home Union and Dobbins Street Co-op, but the internet has been a great resource for larger, more specific things like my dining room table (Ebay). For every piece of west elm furniture like my couch, I like to have a piece that’s a bit more unique, like my rug from a vintage spot in Topanga Canyon. Every time I travel, I try to bring back a piece to furnish my place with like ashtrays, vases, lamps, or plant holders. I also have...a lot of plants. I feel like they are really what makes the place feel wonderful. I also recommend the Le Labo Santal 26 Classic Candle.
on her style and shopping habits
Like my apartment, I like to do a mix of new and vintage partly because I can’t afford to shop just at the places I love (Rachel Comey, Creatures of Comfort, Apiece Apart). I also don’t want to be in the same outfit as everyone else in New York. I wish Manhattan and Brooklyn had better, more accessible vintage though. It’s become near impossible. I guess my style is fairly classic leaning, but I do have a thing for the 70’s. I just try to buy clothes that make me feel like myself and make my butt look good.
on her nightly routine
Similarly to my mornings, I’m horrible at routine. I brush my teeth, wash my face, use Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 (because I drank the Kool-Aid and the Kool-Aid makes my face look amazing), and moisturize. Anything else I do in my “routine” is because I miraculously have free time. I’ll use a mask or something. Then I’ll watch an episode of something I’m loving, or more recently, I’ll read to get less screen time before bed since I notice it has a horrible effect on me.
on her makeup routine
I have about 78 red lipsticks, and I alternate among all of them because I truly haven’t found “the one.” I think not all reds are created equal, so I have to experiment. If someone makes a red lipstick I’ll probably buy it. These are my repeats. Some I love for the color (Chanel Rouge Red Allure), and some for the staying power (Stila Matte Stick in Beso). MAC used to make a Versicolour lip stain but they discontinued it which is a huge shame because it was near perfect. I love also love the matte NARS lipstick. I also recommend Glossier Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream, Glossier Super Glow, Glossier Boy Brow, Everyday Oil Mainstay Blend, Supergoop! x Milly Defense Refresh Setting Mist SPF 50, Kiehl's Ultimate Strength Hand Salve, and Christophe Robin Shade Variation Care Mask.
alison’s favorite movies
The Princess Bride, Minnie and Moskowitz, Beautiful Girls, and I know Lost in Translation feels like a lazy answer but I truly love that movie. Truly.
alison's favorite books
Fancy Desserts by Brooks Headley, Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook by Alice Waters, The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill, The End of the Story by Lydia Davis, The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones, Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
alison's favorite places IN new york city
Workout: Barry’s Bootcamp (lol)