Appetizers & Appropriation: Chrissy Teigen vs. Alison Roman

Illustration by Echo Dieu

Kayla Curtis-Evans

Contributing Writer

I think everyone can agree that Twitter drama is like a car wreck: horrible to look at, but at the same time we can’t help but to sneak a peek. I first came across Alison Roman’s controversial interview on Twitter, and although her commentary had a condescending and elitist tone to it, I just couldn’t stop reading.

 She made some judgemental comments about other successful women and the whole fiasco blew up on social media as fans quickly assembled to Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo’s defense. But this celebrity chef “feud” is more than just petty drama; Alison Roman made condescending and derogatory comments towards two hardworking women within the Asian community. Given Roman’s history of discrediting ethnic cultures, this is a bigger issue of cultural appropriation along with blatant discrimination.

Who is Alison Roman? That is exactly the question I asked myself when I saw her interview making headlines everywhere. She is a very successful American cookbook author as well as a bi-weekly columnist for the New York Times and Bon Appetit. 

Her wide acclaim stems from her savvy use of social media in order to share recipes — in fact, she has written many recipes that have gone viral on Instagram. She has been praised for her ability to create innovative and fresh recipes that cater to young audiences, but she has also been criticized for some of her recipes as well. 

Roman has been previously accused of creating watered down versions of ethnic recipes and taking recipes from Asian Pacific cultures without properly acknowledging their origin. These allegations were made in her comments in a recent The New Consumer interview, in which she expresses her disapproval of how Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo have branded themselves — even more problematic. Many believe that her criticisms of Teigen and Kondo were more than just throw-away comments, but truly anti-Asian sentiments.

In the interview, Roman conveyed her disdain for the way Kondo has built her career, candidly stating, “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 …”

She went on to bring in a fellow celebrity chef personality, Chrissy 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 fucking money.” 

Alison said it best herself: Chrissy Teigen is making a ton of money. She is an American model, TV personality, and author with a net worth of $11.5 million. In more recent years, she has stepped back from modeling to cook and write cookbooks. “Cravings,” her debut cookbook, made the New York Times bestseller list and was named second best cookbook of the year in 2016. All of her achievements are well deserved, as she has built her brand solely on her own and utilizes her Thai origins to create tasty twists on traditional recipes. 

Marie Kondo has also made a huge name for herself. She is a Japanese organizing consultant, author, TV host, and founder of her own company KonMari Media Inc. Kondo has written four books about organizing that have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her Netflix show, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” was also nominated for an Emmy. Both Teigen and Kondo are shining examples of women from the Asian community making a name for themselves and building huge businesses from the ground up; this deserves recognition and praise, not bitter criticism.

Whether or not Alison Roman intended to make arguments that were racially motivated, her words still hurt. Celebrities should be increasingly aware of not just their intentions when they speak, but also the ways in which their words can be understood by others. At the end of the day, if a celebrity does not want their “criticism” of others to be twisted, then maybe they shouldn’t bring others up in their interviews unnecessarily. 

As far as her recipes, I believe all credit should be given where it is due. Cooking is an industry in which people’s ideas are meant to be improved and constantly built upon, but claiming something that does not belong to you is not acceptable. 

Roman did later apologize for any negative connotations that her words could have carried. But her apology seemed to be fueled by obligation after social media users attacked her for her insensitivity. I believe that Teigen and Kondo, as well as the Asian/Asian Pacific community at large, is due for a sincere apology from Roman that truly comes from the heart.