A massive food fight broke out on Twitter last week after cookbook author Alison Roman insulted fellow celebrity chef Chrissy Teigen and organizer extraordinaire Marie Kondo.
In an interview with the New Consumer, published May 7, the New York Times columnist reflected on the success of her growing food empire — and dragged Kondo and Teigen for their wildly successful lifestyle brands.
Around the time of her second cookbook, 2017’s “Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes,” Roman rose to fame thanks to a popular chocolate-chip cookie recipe that became known on the internet as simply #TheCookies. A year later, she made another viral recipe for chickpea stew, dubbed #TheStew.
Roman boasts a wide following in the food community, bolstered by her bestselling cookbooks, social media presence, New York Times cooking column and contributions to Bon Appétit magazine.
But now she has drawn harsh criticism for her “tacky” and “unprofessional” remarks about Teigen and Kondo, with several commenters noting the optics of a white woman singling out two prominent women of color. The backlash even prompted Teigen, a beloved and prolific Twitter user, to go quiet on the platform.
After a casual Twitter apology addressed only to Teigen on May 8, Roman apologized in a more polished statement released Monday.
“I need to formally apologize to Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo. I used their names disparagingly to try and distinguish myself, which I absolutely do not have an excuse for,” Roman wrote.
Here’s how all the drama went down.
Roman picks a food fight
The expletive-ridden rant that started it all came from Roman’s conversation with the New Consumer, in which she judged the “Cravings” author and “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo” star for expanding their brands.
“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,” Roman said. “I’m like, damn ... you ... 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 [damn]!’”
“‘For the low, low price of $19.99, please to buy my cutting board!’ Like, no. ... It feels greedy,” Roman said before moving on to Teigen.
“Like, what Chrissy Teigen has done is so crazy to me. 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. But like, who’s laughing now? Because she’s making a ton of ... money.”
Teigen defends herself
Never one to be silent on social media, Teigen chimed in the next day on Twitter, admitting she was “bummed out” by the disrespect from someone she has “supported” and admired. She also pointed to her role as an executive producer on Roman’s forthcoming cooking show.
“This is a huge bummer and hit me hard,” Teigen wrote in a long thread of tweets that are no longer public. “I have made her recipes for years now, bought the cookbooks, supported her on social and praised her in interviews. I even signed on to executive produce the very show she talks about doing in this article.”
The star of Quibi’s “Chrissy’s Court” also defended Kondo, author of the major bestseller “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” who has not addressed the controversy publicly.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so bummed out by the words of a fellow food-lover,” Teigen continued. “I just had no idea I was perceived that way, by her especially. And Marie, too. Marie is awesome.
“It has been crappy to deal with this all day but I couldn’t not say something,” Teigen went on. “I know the actual tears I put into the work I do and it’s really hard to see someone try to completely invalidate it. Someone I really liked.”
Following public outrage and Teigen’s response, Roman quickly apologized for the interview on Twitter on May 8 — after first alluding to the drama in a series of vague and sarcastic tweets.
“When women bully other women for being honest about money and how much they do or do not make, well, thats amore,” Roman wrote.
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
“Just wishing I had someone to hold my hand during baby’s first internet backlash,” she continued, before adding, “I want to clarify, I am not coming for anyone who’s successful, especially not women. I was trying to clarify that my business model does not include a product line, which work very well for some, but I don’t see working for me.”
Then came the apology.
“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,” Roman wrote on Twitter. “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.
“Being a woman who takes down other women is absolutely not my thing and don’t think it’s yours, either (I obviously failed to effectively communicate that). I hope we can meet one day, I think we’d probably get along.”
Being a woman who takes down other women is absolutely not my thing and don’t think it’s yours, either (I obviously failed to effectively communicate that). I hope we can meet one day, I think we’d probably get along.— alison roman (@alisoneroman) May 9, 2020
Roman requests an edit
In an editor’s note dated May 9, New Consumer writer Dan Frommer revealed that Roman “asked me to remove one word from this interview — ‘to’ — that she thought might be misinterpreted.”
The request refers to this controversial quote Roman gave regarding Kondo: “‘For the low, low price of $19.99, please to buy my cutting board!’”
While many accused Roman of mocking Kondo’s Japanese accent with her word choice of “please to,” Roman claimed via the editor’s note that the “to” was a “a reference to an Eastern European cookbook called ‘Please to the Table,’ and an inside joke with friends.”
Frommer backed Roman further, writing, “I want to set the record unequivocally straight: Alison was not mocking an Asian accent when she said that to me, and any claim that she was is incorrect.”
Roman’s recipes have previously sparked broader discussion around race and cultural appropriation in the food world. Last year, she dismissed the suggestion that perhaps her most famous recipe, her chickpea stew with coconut and turmeric, was a whitewashed attempt at a curry dish.
“I’m like y’all, this is not a curry...I’ve never made a curry,” she said in an interview with Jezebel. “I don’t come from a culture that knows about curry ... I come from no culture. I have no culture. I’m like, vaguely European.”
Teigen takes a break
Since addressing Roman’s now-infamous remarks, Teigen decided May 10 to “take a little break” after dealing with an onslaught of Twitter trolls in Roman’s corner.
The model and TV personality’s account was set to private so that her tweets cannot be embedded or retweeted.
“This is what always happens,” she added. “The first day, a ton of support, then the next, 1 million reasons as to why you deserved this. It never fails.”
Several writers and Hollywood stars — including Patricia Arquette, Ashley Nicole Black, Alyssa Milano, Roxane Gay and Teigen’s husband, musician John Legend — rallied around Teigen, showering her with support on social media.
“I love what you are building,” Legend wrote on May 8. “I love that it comes straight from your heart and your brilliant, creative mind. I’m so proud of you.”
I love what you are building. I love that it comes straight from your heart and your brilliant, creative mind. I'm so proud of you— John Legend (@johnlegend) May 9, 2020
Roman’s first apology, however, was not as well received, with many accusing the cook of kissing up to Teigen only after Teigen went public with her executive producer credit on Roman’s new show.
Several also demanded more justice for Kondo, who received only a brief mention in Roman’s initial apology.
Roman apologizes again
On May 11, after a weekend of simmering backlash, Roman posted another apology, this one quite lengthy and more willing to accept blame for the outrage her initial remarks had ignited.
“It was stupid, careless and insensitive. I need to learn, and respect, the difference between being unfiltered and honest vs. being uneducated and flippant,” Roman wrote. “The burden is not on them (or anyone else) to teach me, and I’m deeply sorry that my learning came at Chrissy and Marie’s expense.”
I’ve thought a lot this weekend about my interview and the things I said. I know this is a lengthy note (succinctness has never been my strong suit). I appreciate you taking the time to read. pic.twitter.com/3iGAyN3c9d— alison roman (@alisoneroman) May 11, 2020
Roman also addressed the racial implications of her offending comments.
“I’m a white woman who has and will continue to benefit from white privilege and I recognize that makes what I said even more inexcusable and hurtful,” she wrote. “The fact that it didn’t occur to me that I had singled out two Asian women is one hundred percent a function of my privilege (being blind to racial insensitivities is a discriminatory luxury).”
Teigen is gracious about Roman’s apology
“thank u for this, @alisoneroman. To be clear, it never once crossed my mind for u to apologize for what you genuinely thought!” Teigen tweeted shortly after Roman’s latest mea culpa. “The comments stung, but they moreso stung because they came from u!”
Teigen said she could relate to Roman’s inclination to be unfiltered and say whatever she wanted. “I just maybe don’t unleash on my peers on super public platforms lol,” Teigen wrote. (Her Twitter account is now public again.)
“And honestly, for the past few days, every time I saw a shallot I wanted to cry,” Teigen added, “but I do appreciate this and hopefully we can all be better and learn from the dumb [stuff] we have all said and done.”
thank u for this, @alisoneroman. To be clear, it never once crossed my mind for u to apologize for what you genuinely thought! The comments stung, but they moreso stung because they came from u! It wasn’t my usual news break of some random person hating everything about me!— chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 12, 2020
Times staff writer James Reed contributed to this report.