College or Kitchen? (with Alison Roman)

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While a student, Alison Roman made a life-changing decision to leave college to start working in a restaurant kitchen and has never looked back. Sam talks to Alison about being such a decisive person, creating viral recipes, the magic of pasta water, weighing information and intuition and making the content for yourself that you wish to see in the world when no one else will make it for you.

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Samantha Bee, Alison Roman

Samantha Bee  00:20

There are some people who can pack all their belongings into a little knapsack and just hit the road not knowing where they’re going. They can live off the grid for months at a time, sleep under the stars, go from country to country, washing their socks in in a hotel coffee pot, which I’ve heard as a thing all or a stream. I truly, I admire so much about people like that, but it’s just not me. I need a little corner that is mine. Sometimes I’m surprised that people expect me to be more of a free spirit, as if everyone who lives in the public eye is just like ready for anything, up for whatever, any time of the day or night. But I have always been this way. I am a creature of habit. I have known about myself for a long time that I need roots. I need to be tethered to something.


Samantha Bee  02:56

This is Choice Words, I’m Samantha Bee. My guest today is Alison Roman. You know her from her famous shortbread chocolate chip cookies. Trust me, I know that you have made them, because literally, everyone has made them. I love talking to food people. But what I especially love talking to Allison about was our shared trait of wanting roots, wanting something solid for ourselves, even even really, if that means buying a former pizza restaurant to possibly live in, should everything at some point come crashing down, because sometimes it does. So take a listen and make good choices.


Samantha Bee  03:48

I’m so excited to talk to you. I’m a really huge fan of yours, like huge.


Alison Roman  03:53

Wow, I am such a fan of yours that that is wild to hear. The fact that you know who I am is crazy to me.


Samantha Bee  03:59

I had butterflies and I had to eat a rollings. And that’s the God’s honest truth, I had a rollings before.


Alison Roman  04:04

Wow, does that help with anxiety? Or just it, you can help placebo.


Samantha Bee  04:10

It’s simple, it’s like a little piece of chalk that I eat that gives settles.


Alison Roman  04:13

It’s like beta blockers, except for your body.


Samantha Bee  04:16

I think so, I think it just, it’s just like, why are we dealing with chalk right now, and all of the focus goes to what I’ve put inside. Yeah, no body in, in my body, yeah.


Alison Roman  04:27

Well, I can’t believe I’m talking to you. I feel like this is such an honor, and I’m so flattered, and I really you are incredible, and I watched you all the time, and like, really looked forward to you and thought, wow, women can be funny and smart at the same time, you know?


Samantha Bee  04:46

I think you okay, well, we will. I’m gonna actually ask you questions, like I actually have an agenda here today, but I want to say that your cookbooks are influential in my life, people in my family, even like my stepmom, all these people that I know, everybody makes your shortbread cookies for one thing, because that’s just like it that is a family activity, just a classic, family activity, and just, it’s just known. You’re known to everyone in my family. So just hold that in your heart.


Alison Roman  05:13

That’s very wholesome. It’s like a very beautiful cookbook club.


Samantha Bee  05:16

I love cookbooks. I don’t, I’m like, a cookbook addict actually, that’s how I apart from taking a role lates, if I’m feeling nervous.


Alison Roman  05:25

I might soothe you in the same way.


Samantha Bee  05:27

Yeah, they soothe me in the exact same way. Okay, so I do you have so many things going on that we need to talk about before we talk about all the stuff that you’re doing, which I’m so excited about, and I love this show as a launch point, we talk about choice, and the choices you’ve made in your life, big or small, that kind of got you where you are, or made a big change or a little change that kind of like became a big change. But that sort of the idea of making choices is really different for everyone, are you very good at it? Are you decisive?


Alison Roman  06:03

I’m extremely decisive.


Samantha Bee  06:04

Are you?


Alison Roman  06:05

Yeah, but I sit on, I like, sit on things for a minute before I, decide, but like, I’m the kind of person that will be at a party having a pretty good time, and then be like, I have to go right now. And it’s not like my mind change, it’s that that I arrived to the party. I was like, I’m probably not gonna stay long, but while I’m gonna have a great I’m gonna have a great time, okay, when I’m ready to go, I’m ready to go. It’s kind of that with anything where it’s like, I know before the thing happens. I’m like, I’m ready, I’m Let’s go, like, I don’t waffle too much.


Samantha Bee  06:34

Do you? Are you the type of person who’s like, I think that I’m gonna wake up at 6:15 tomorrow, and your brain just goes, it’s 650 and no blink.


Alison Roman  06:42

Absolutely not no, I mean, I wake up at 6:15 often because I sleep poorly, and my body will wake me up at like, anywhere from three to 6pm or 6am and I’ll stay awake and, like, do crosswords. But it’s not by choice, not by choice.


Samantha Bee  06:58

Okay, but you just when you’re in something, you’re like, it is over now, and now I leave goodbye.


Alison Roman  07:04

Is like a heavy and, you know, I think about it a lot in terms of, like, intuition versus information. And do I make choices based on information or intuition? I don’t know if I had to guess. I’d say more intuition, which, depending on how, like, scientifically minded you are could be bullshit, but I do feel like I’m a more feelings based decision maker, right?


Samantha Bee  07:28

Yeah, and when something is in terms of, like, career choices is something, when you have all the information about something and there’s always some piece of it that’s totally unknowable, like, the end result, of course, is unknowable. Do you toss and turn for weeks and weeks? Are you like, this is what I want to do. This is what is guiding me. Is how much I like this thing.


Alison Roman  07:49

I feel like before, like the earlier in my career, my choices were more like, big swings in that, like, I would leave a job, I would move to a city I would like, do these, like, really, sort of big, more like definitive choices and things that would have, like a big ripple effect, versus now, things happen a lot more gradually. They like, kind of reveal themselves. I’m like, oh, this started as this, but it’s now this. I like that or, whoa. We got a we got a course correct, we, like, strew, you know, strayed too far from the path. So I think it’s like, less, I’m gonna do this now, and more. Let’s see how things unfold, given that, like, there’s so much up in the air, yeah, I mean, then there’s, like, certain things that are, like, boring decisions you have to make. It’s like, okay, well, you have to, like, plan this thing ahead. You have to do this deadline. You have to, like, write a book, you have to like things that are not so vibe based. Can’t be all vibes all the time.


Samantha Bee  08:47

Can’t be it, can’t be just vibes. Do you do like a are you person who likes a deadline?


Alison Roman  08:53

Because otherwise I’ll never do it.


Samantha Bee  08:55

Me too, I actually need it. Yeah, if it feels arbitrary to just put some structure on the press.


Alison Roman  09:02

Yeah, I mean, you seem I’ve always taken you for a creative person, and I think that people assume that a creative person doesn’t like boundaries or guidelines or guardrails, but I think actually, we really need it and sort of crave it, because it does give us, like safe space to move around in, rather than just like, splat, everywhere. And then, like, at least for me, I’m just like, oh, this is a mess. This is nothing is organized. No one knows where anything is like, because I’m just like, just like, yeah, exactly. So I do like, an assignment. I love a deadline, I love structure, I love parameters.


Samantha Bee  09:39

When I was younger, like, in my early 20s, I got a loft. I got I moved in with a bunch of friends into a loft, and I actually lived in there for six months, and was like, I have to get out of here. There’s too much headspace, yeah, okay, there was just, like, too much room, but I needed the parameters of a normal.


Alison Roman  09:59

But, it’s funny because I moved out of a loft and into a place that has, like, literally two days ago, that has like, actual rooms, and I feel already, like, so much more grounded and so much more like, okay, this is my office. I go and work, instead of just like, This is the room where you do everything you know, like, you cook here you eat, here, you work, here you watch TV, here you hang out here, but it was all the same room.


Samantha Bee  10:21

Yes, oh my god, yeah.


Alison Roman  10:23

We can take it, yeah. Which, like, in theory, is really nice, like, oh, the light and space, but like, it’s not, especially if you live with another person, because you’re always there wherever you go, there they are. In the same way.


Samantha Bee  10:33

You’re just rattling around with somebody in a big old, tall room, where you can’t even be so tall, you can’t even beautiful, so beautiful. And in theory and in reality, you’re just like, I can’t I’m not Spider Man. We need I’m not a trapeze artist.


Alison Roman  10:49

No, I always flailing is the word that comes to mind, unfortunately.


Samantha Bee  10:53

So when you look back, when you look back at the entirety of your life thus far, is there the choice that you made that you think really stands out for you as something that kind of trained, changed the trajectory, or was fulfilling in a way that you weren’t expecting or just, is there a big choice that you made that really stands out to you?


Alison Roman  11:13

Yeah, I mean, you know, I thought about this question, and I was thinking about, especially earlier in my life, how it felt like every choice that I made was, like, really set me on the path to where I am now for a multitude of reasons but I would say, like, making the decision to leave college and start working in restaurants when I was 19, that was sort of the first decision, the first choice that I made, not just because of my age, but like, I mean, I guess, partly because of my age. I was 19, but like, really felt like this was something that I’m deciding for myself. This is something that I’m that nobody else is weighing in on. This is something that, like, this choice will affect me and my life for the rest of my life. And I was so sure that it was the right choice. I was like, never was I scared or like, what if this doesn’t work? I was like, I’m gonna do this, and this is what I’m doing. And I sort of, kind of, I kind of like, went forth with that energy for every major decision after that, where it was like, I’m moving to San Francisco, I’m moving to New York, I’m quitting this job, I’m doing this thing where it was like, everyone was like, what like, it didn’t. I never took, like a what I would consider like an obvious path. And I remember my dad once, and this was, like, after I had been living in New York for a few years, and I, like, just left a job to take another job, and it was like a really good job that I took for kind of like an unknowable job, and he was like, you know, you always make the right choice, even if I can’t see it at the time, so I guess I congratulations. I was, like, it was, like, sort of a compliment. But it was, I mean, it was, it was, it was sort of like the acknowledgement that, like, I obviously am, like, seeing something, whether, you know, whether or not every choice feels like the right thing at the start, but yeah, I think that for me, the the biggest and most important was, like, that first choice.


Samantha Bee  12:59

So consequential, did you have people? Did the people in your life resist that? Or was it so con? Was it confusing to them? Or did they kind of see it coming?


Alison Roman  13:09

I think it was more confusing. I mean, my parents, I think, always knew that I was kind of non traditional in that, like I didn’t even want to go to college in the first place. And then when my all my friends were going away, I was like, No, I do want to go to college, and kind of did my own thing when given the opportunity. And so I don’t think that they were shocked, but I do think they were like, is my daughter’s life going to be ruined by this choice that, like she seems really adamant on making? How much power do we have in like her making these choices? And I think that, you know, I think most parents feel that way as they watch their kids get older, no matter what age they are. But you know, being like, is this? How much control do I have over this person who’s like, clearly made up their mind.


Samantha Bee  13:52

Right, who’s a legal adult?  Legal adult, yes, yeah. Did you when you started working in the restaurant where you’re like, great, this is what I this is actually what, exactly where I want to be.


Alison Roman  14:05

Yeah, and I, and, like, the first few months in the restaurant, I mean, I cried every day. I was like, I’ve ruined my life. This was terrible. I’m, you know, but I never thought I made the wrong choice. I was never like, oh, I should have stayed in school. I should I should have not given this a shot. I was just like, frustrated that I wasn’t good yet. Because it’s like, it’s like, a someone who’s like, trying to do something physical that they really aspire to, and they’re like, I’m just, I don’t have the skill yet. And like, that’s kind of what it was like. I knew I wanted to learn how to cook and do it well and and aspired to it so much. But like, I was burning things, I was dropping things my I didn’t want to use a knife. I didn’t know, like, the physicality of being in a professional kitchen, because that is something that you have to learn.


Samantha Bee  14:44

Right, and the people you were working with in the restaurant, were they like, we see you and we’re gonna show we’re gonna show you we.


Alison Roman  14:52

Most of them, yeah, my boss, my like, immediate boss and mentor, Ron. He was like, well, you want to be here and you really care. And that’s like, half the battle, that’s more than half the battle. Like, you can teach someone how to do something, but you can’t teach somebody to like, care and teach somebody to be enthusiastic and like, I feel that way about like, when I think about hiring people, or whatever, like, moving forward and in job related stuff, or, I don’t. I mean, you can teach anyone most things, and if the skill isn’t there, I’m more, I’m more willing to overlook that than be like, oh, but you, your personality gets it, like we see each other.


Samantha Bee  15:26

Yeah, right, right. Like you want to, you want to imagine that you’re bringing people like into a workplace who want to leave the workplace better than when they arrived. Like you’re always thinking about growth.


Alison Roman  15:39

Yeah, or just also understanding that, like, no one’s good at everything when they start doing it, and it just, like, takes time, and everyone has to start somewhere. And I started at, like, a very high level kitchen, that I felt very lucky that they didn’t just tell me to leave, because they, by all accounts, I probably should have, because it was a lot of, like, really patient people, and I, like, just felt really lucky to be there, and kind of like, tried to learn as much as I could from the people around me and do a good job.


Samantha Bee  16:06

You were the first thing that you made there that you really thought, oh, I I’ve connected with, okay, I did this.


Alison Roman  16:15

I did, know, I wish I did, but I it’s funny because I have, like, my recipe book from that time, and it is so sweet and, like, pure, you know, it’s like, just full of enthusiasm for cooking and baking and life. But, I mean, like, I think there’s, like, a few recipes in the beginning that I probably were, like, the first things that I made, like, cookie dough and ice cream base, and like, a lemon curd. And, like, you know, kind of base, more basic bakery style dessert things. But yeah, the first time that you, like, when you’re cooking and someone says, like, for example, like, roast until blah, blah, blah. And you’re like, why do my carrots always turn out, like, wet, even though, like, I’m roasting them to the time that they say? And you’re like, Oh, you just gotta roast them longer. And you’ll know. You’ll know when you know when a carrot is, like, wonderfully roasted. And then you do it for the first time and you’re like, Oh, that’s a well, roasted carrot, or whatever it can be, something simple, but like, I think so much about cooking and baking is like doing it for the first time and having success with it and being like, oh, that’s what I was trying to achieve this whole time.


Samantha Bee  17:18

Like making caramelized onions for the first time, very well, totally.


Alison Roman  17:22



Samantha Bee  17:23

You’re like, wait, I followed the instructions and they’re still white and wet. So you mean, like, I have to go off further page, go further.


Alison Roman  17:33

Yeah, and that’s like, when, like, you know, intuition and, like, taking into account, like, very variability in the kitchen. But like, that’s when you also start to, like listen to yourself. You’re like, oh, cooking is not just about following instructions. It’s about listening to yourself and being like, I know when this is ready or when it’s not ready, which is difficult to do when you write books.


Samantha Bee  17:49

But, yeah, very difficult. It’s very It must be very difficult when you write books to kind of like, figure, I can’t imagine the technical writing. It’s actually hard for me as a cookbook lover, to imagine the technical writing aspect of, like, the recipe itself.


Alison Roman  18:05

Yeah, I mean, you want to, you want to so badly, like, talk to the person cooking, like, speak directly to you, and be like, try to imagine you in the kitchen. And you’re like, well, she says this, but I only have this. I wonder if that’s okay. Like me anticipating that need and, like, writing that into the recipe. But like so much about writing a recipe is just like committing to, like, the name and the flavor profile and writing it down. But some of it’s arbitrary. It’s like, you could use a shallot, you could use an onion, you could use a fennel bulb, you could use mushrooms, who cares? But you can’t write a recipe that’s like, do whatever, like, necessarily, like some people really want the structure and the parameters. So the technical aspect for to that end is like, yeah, there’s a million ways to roast a chicken. I just this is a recipe this way, you know, but it’s not definitive.


Samantha Bee  18:39

There’s more Choice Words in just a moment.


Samantha Bee  19:00

When you were a kid, when you were growing up, did you love food? Like, was this? Is this? Like, you know, like, when we all watch videos of Beyonce singing at the age of two, and we’re like, oh, well, she was destined. Well, of course she’s.


Alison Roman  21:18

Yeah, I don’t think I was destined in that way. But I do. I like, I know people that like, cook for a living, and there’s like, pictures of them in a little chef hat at like, eight, and I’m like, No, that wasn’t really my vibe. I think that I associated food and cooking with, like, being happy, and like, some of my best memories as a kid had to do with cooking. And I think that, like, as a person who had a pretty complicated relationship with her mom, she liked to entertain a lot, and she was always in her best mood when she was cooking and entertaining and having people over and all that stuff. So I like made this very early association with like, cooking makes people like you cooking means you’re in a good mood, cooking having people over is like, happy.


Samantha Bee  22:01

That is so it’s so cool to me that you’re saying that because, I mean, because I love your cookbooks so much, and they really express that they are so much about community of people coming together. The photography is beautiful. It’s very it’s very communal, very intentionally. Like, about entertaining, like, people are coming over, it’s pretty casual, but also beautiful.


Alison Roman  22:28

Yeah, and like, you can it can just be a source of joy, where so many people phrase it in the like, this stresses me out, and I hate it. And then sometimes I’m like, well, then don’t do it, but yeah.


Samantha Bee  22:37

You don’t have to, you don’t have to do it, and.


Alison Roman  22:39

Then you can stop.


Samantha Bee  22:40

So you know what is also okay. So you’re you’re cooking, you’re creating, your writing books, but you also are educating. You’re also talking to people. You’re making videos, you’re coaching people, you’re bringing people along. You’re developing a personality that is interacting with an audience at the same time that you’re cooking and developing rest. What was the I guess, what was the impetus to add that into your world?


Alison Roman  23:11

I think that when I decide, like, part of what I enjoyed about working in restaurants was learning, and I worked in restaurants for six or seven years, and I don’t believe people are ever through learning. I’m I still learn how to do stuff all the time, but I did feel like I sort of plateaued in the restaurant space, and it was like, no longer fulfilling to me to like, not interact with people in a way that, like, I liked teaching people in the kitchen, like within that. And so when new people would come into work there, I would train them. And I really liked that part, but I think it’s because that’s how I responded, and that’s how I learned how to cook. I was really inquisitive. Someone would tell me, like, this is how you do this. And I’d be like, Why? Like, I needed to know the how and the why in order to fully appreciate it and do it. But also, if I understood that, then I could understand other things I never liked just being told what to do. I did need to sort of hear the reasoning behind it, and I wanted and craved, like, more information, which I think made me a better cook from an early age. And I realized that I liked that as a recipient, and I don’t think it was like a conscious choice to be like, Okay, now I’m a teacher, and now I’m a student, I’m a teacher, but I just found that, like, I’m also very verbose, and I think that, like, if I’m gonna, if you’re gonna call me and say, like, how do I roast a whole fish? I’m going to tell you in the way that I would want someone to tell me, and that I’m gonna say, this is how you’re gonna ask for it. And here’s why, here’s why you don’t ask for the other one. Here’s what you’re gonna do, and if it doesn’t release from the skillet, that means x, y and z, so keep cooking it. So I think, yeah, like, I really enjoy talking to people the way that I would want to be talked to. You know, that’s like a general rule of how to live, but I think especially with regards to remembering how I responded to being taught and the things that really stuck with me and how to like, really communicate with people in a way that feels personal, that you are sort of, in effect, both entertaining and teaching at the same time, which I feel like, I mean, not to, not to be like, but you, but like that was something that I always really enjoyed about everything that you did, which was, you know, you’re sort of watching for the information and the news, but you’re also being entertained. And it’s, it’s so rare that a person can do both so well so.


Samantha Bee  25:24

Oh, thank you. It’s fun. It’s like, it’s like, fun to, I agree with you. I think it’s really fun to be very engaged with something, to really love something so much that you just have to kind of talk about it, or you’re so interested in something. And then you’ve created, you’ve built this whole world of your career where you’re just showing people how to do things. It’s so it’s relaxing to me. I love, I love watching people cook. It’s like one of my favorite things, to find it like a meditation, and it’s a very learning are there, like, aha, kind of moments in your own cooking when you were learning at that young age where you were like, oh, oh my god. Like something really connected for you, like emulsifying a salad, or, like something so simple, like just so.


Alison Roman  26:11

I have a recipe coming out in the summer. I don’t know when this is airing, but maybe it’ll be around the same time. But for like, this eggplant pasta, right? And so I feel like I don’t like I don’t like doing eggplant on the stovetop, because you need a lot more oil than if you just roast it with olive oil, right? Eggplant will, like, needs a lot of oil to roast or to get color, and then you can sort of eat it as is, like, and then you’re like, this is good, but not as delicious or, like, the texture is weird, or, I don’t know, like, something has always been off for me, but I made a pasta with it the other day, and I added so much pasta water back into the pasta dish, and it’s almost like, if you think about eggplant as a sponge, that you’re dehydrating in the oven and then rehydrating with water, the texture became so deliciously creamy, almost like custardy, like as if I had added eggs or something, which I’ve experienced also, when you like, roast whole eggplant, like the interior, like baba ganoush style, becomes like, custardy, like, it’s like steamed, textured. And I was like, oh, if you roast the eggplant, you concentrate the flavors, but then you add in pasta water, like, make this sauce, and somehow you get this, like, deeply roasted flavor, but like, really delicious, saucy, fluffy texture of eggplant. And I was like, wow, I can’t believe I’ve never done this before.


Samantha Bee  27:25

That sounds I was thrilled, delicious.


Alison Roman  27:27

It’s really good, yeah, it’s, like, spicy. There’s like, some chili paste in it, and some, like, a very small amount of tomatoes.


Samantha Bee  27:34

I’m Yeah, I can’t wait.


Alison Roman  27:35

I’ll send it to you. I’ll give you a preview.


Samantha Bee  27:37

100% gonna make that okay? I like that. There’s some pasta water is ridiculously magical.


Alison Roman  27:43

That’s it, really is. I think most people that have bad at home pasta experiences, but think restaurant pasta is so good it’s because of the pasta water.


Samantha Bee  27:53

Right? Yeah, I agree, do you? How was the shift for you? What did that shift feel like when you went from, oh, I like, I work in restaurants, and I work in the food world, and I work in the food industry. To suddenly, not suddenly, but like, to kind of open your eyes one day and go, millions of people are making my recipes.


Alison Roman  28:13

I don’t know, I was just kind of like, whoa. Like, that’s right. So cool. But it was also a different time, like, the first time that it happened, it was like, Instagram was it was a thing, but it wasn’t what it is now, right? There was no Tiktok. I wasn’t on YouTube. Like, no one really knew who I was, like, right? It just was kind of like right before things blew up with like people and food and like, people started to pay attention. So it was sort of like this magical thing. But it didn’t necessarily feel like it was happening to me. It felt like it was happening to the to the food, you know, okay, like to the to the children, like I had made these things and they are good and people like them, right? I didn’t necessarily internalize it as like me, I’m good. I internalized it as, like, yes, these cookies are so good, right? And now you know, it too. And, like, it wasn’t so much about me. It was it became about mel ater, I would say, like, the more popular the recipes became, then people are like, well, who’s writing these recipes? And then it was me, you know, like, it became more quote, personality focused, I think, but at first it definitely felt more like the food was, like, the thing that was, connotation, ascent.


Samantha Bee  29:25

Yeah, goodbye cookie was that, do you remember the first recipe that you wrote that became, like, a huge sensation, like a big viral sensation?


Alison Roman  29:33

Yeah, it was the chocolate chunk shortbread cookies from dining in. And that’s cool, because that book, it was my first book, again, like no one really knew who I was. It wasn’t like I had like 100,000 Instagram follower, if that, like, I don’t even think I had that many. It was just kind of like this thing that happened. I remember I was in on vacation with my best friend in Mexico at the time, yeah, and this was like in February of 2018 and I, shut my phone, and, like, all of a sudden, like, all these people started following me, and like, people were commenting, and they were all talking about the cookie. And like, someone reached out to me from, like, a magazine, and was like, we want to talk about these cookies. And I was like, what is happening? Because, like, it just, it just hadn’t happened before, like, to anyone, like, I didn’t have a frame of reference, right? You know, it wasn’t something that I aspired to.


Samantha Bee  30:19

Do you still make the cookies, are you like? Are you like Van Halen? And they’re like, we don’t want to do jump anymore. I mean, no more.


Samantha Bee  33:27

No, I totally will make them.


Samantha Bee  33:29

There’s more Choice Words in just a moment.


Samantha Bee  33:46

Do you? I want to talk to you about making, making the show that you wish to see in the world for yourself. So because I think many of us have learned that the only, the really, the only audience you can guarantee is yourself really? So what has it been like? I guess. What has it been like for you making your home video series?


Alison Roman  34:09

Okay, so I’ve, I’ve like, sold two TV shows in my, short, sweet life. None of them have been made. So, like.


Alison Roman  34:15

And they’re both great feeling.


Alison Roman  34:17

Yeah, it’s just great, yeah. I’ve done like, one pre, almost made one sold never made one sold made never aired. So I get closer every time, but I sort of, like, used to think that if I was really good at my job and I believed in myself and I liked what I made, that somebody out there would see me and be like, come with me, kid, like, we’re gonna give you all the things that you want and ask for. Like, here’s a TV show and here’s the this, and here’s the that, because you’re good and you deserve it, you know, and that’s just simply not the case now. And so instead of feeling like, down about it, or bad about it, or bad about myself, or being like, Oh, is it not good enough? Like, this gets made how come my stuff doesn’t get made? Like, that doesn’t matter. And now I’m sort of like, well, we live in a blessed time where anyone can kind of make anything they want and put it out there and hope that people respond to it. And that’s about as much control as you can have. And so now with home movies, I’m sort of like, let’s just make a version of if I were like, yeah, I’m gonna do like, a pretty straightforward cooking show, and it’s gonna be, like, really high quality, and it could be on TV if it wanted to be, you know, like, what does that look like? And it’s me, and, like, a pretty small group of people who are all really good at their jobs, and we’re all like, cool, like, Let’s do like, we don’t have anyone telling us what to do or how to do it or whatever. So we really are being like, okay, with a very small budget, relying on like, you know, sporadic advertising. We are trying to stretch our our legs and be like, what would that look like if we were to make like a TV show? Because for me, in food and in food content, quote, unquote, I think that there’s so much like, people are always like, are you gonna be on Tiktok? I’m not because I’m almost 40, and I just don’t see that for me. I also don’t think I’d be good at it. And I think it is a separate skill set that I do not possess, but what I do possess is this sort of more, like, old school, maybe outdated, like, definitely not, like, cutting edge, pretty basic. Like, this person teaches you how to cook something, you know? And I’m like, can’t that be enough?


Samantha Bee  36:21

It can.


Alison Roman  36:22

I think it’s scary, okay.


Samantha Bee  36:24

100% it can be, you can’t. I think it’s very it’s actually so helpful. It’s actually really healthy to go I’m not it’s Tiktok is like a different animal. And yes, you can appreciate it. You can love it. It doesn’t mean that you can execute on it yourself.


Alison Roman  36:40

I would be really bad. Oh no, we don’t even have that.


Samantha Bee  36:44

I tell you the number of times I’ve resisted people’s like, need to get, like, just in a workplace, they’re like, you got to get on Tiktok. I’m like, please no, no one wants this. I don’t want primarily me.


Alison Roman  36:57

Yeah, and that right now, the person I will listen to.


Samantha Bee  36:59

Yeah, you just have to, like, do what is in your skill set and what you’re good at and what you’re gonna I think it’s freeing.


Alison Roman  37:09

Yeah, it is freeing. And I think that, like, the hope is, effectively, that I one day do get to make that like thing with a bigger budget, and, like, sure, collaborate with people and, like, make something that feels like I don’t have to, like, read an advertisement to to make the work that I want to make. But that is where we are, I think, and most people find themselves in that position. And I feel lucky that I’m even able to pay for it a little bit. And I’m like, well, for now, that feels really good to me.


Samantha Bee  37:33

I think it’s great. I feel like, with the I feel that the entirety, obviously, as you’ve experienced, as I’ve experienced, the entirety of the entertainment industry has contracted and kind of, it’s in a pretty bad place. So actually, taking the reins for yourself is actually just satisfying and great and so smart.


Alison Roman  37:53

Yeah. I mean, you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it through like, five different iterations in that like, it’s very difficult to be like, Oh, where we are today is not where we were when I started setting the goals for myself. When you’re like, okay, if I had the goal 15 years ago to do X, Y and Z, I can’t necessarily achieve that goal today. And I think a lot of people that have aspirations for entertainment, especially like more traditional forms, like TV or now streaming, etc, it’s sort of like, rudderless, you know, you’re like, how do I achieve this? Like, I used to feel like I had the idea of, like, how to get there, but now I don’t know.


Samantha Bee  38:28

Yeah, just, I think it’s like, as simple as, I don’t know, I don’t have any secrets. I but it’s like, I think it’s as simple as doing the thing that you know, that you love to do, and that’s the only thing. And then whatever else comes is whatever else. But as long as you’re, like, answering just like the core drive, it’s all going to be okay.


Alison Roman  38:49

Yeah, I genuinely feel that way. And I think that I’ve come I’ve come to peace with that, like, come to peace, come become a piece. I’ve come to peace of just being like, Oh, that’s okay. Like, I don’t necessarily need to to want the thing that I wanted 10 years ago or five years ago, because that thing is different now, right?


Samantha Bee  39:07

Yeah, and so, okay, wait, I didn’t know that you opened a general store. Can you please tell me about what is that? What I want to work there? You can.


Alison Roman  39:17

I can do a shift, you can sign up.


Samantha Bee  39:18

Can I?


Alison Roman  39:19

Yes, okay, it’s so pleasant. I gotta say, it’s in a tiny town called bloomville, New York, I bought a building in 2021 like, very early 2021 and I was like, you know what I it was. It used to be a pizza restaurant slash Airbnb, like a very beloved pizza establishment. And I kind of was like, You know what? I don’t want to hedge my bets that, like I should rely on the internet for success. I shouldn’t rely on like, things that I cannot see, things that I cannot control, for my financial well being, for my stability, for my creative output, for my happiness. And so I thought, okay, well. I’ve always wanted to open a grocery store. This could be a really great place for that. And it just felt like a really cool opportunity to be like, I’m going to have a physical representation of the thing that I’ve always done, which is teach people how to cook. Like, it kind of starts at a grocery store, right? Or, like a place to buy ingredients. And there’s something very special about physical spaces. And as a person who definitely doesn’t definitely does not ever want to open a restaurant, it felt like the most obvious choice to be like, Oh, I’m gonna do that. And let’s say the internet blows up tomorrow. Let’s say Instagram shuts down. Let’s say like no one has access to like social media and being popular and like getting paid for advertisements based on your popularity, I will have a full physical brick and mortar location where I can, like, live if I have to, I can make a living, like, I can do something with that. It felt like, it felt like, very like doomsday prepper energy. But I am so glad that I did it.


Samantha Bee  40:57

I relate to what you’re saying so hard I just love like, it’s very, I mean, I grew up in Canada, just very pragmatic to be like, no matter what happens, can retreat to this place. People still will need to buy things, people still need to learn how to do stuff. And I’m like, right here, and I could live here. I could sleep alone.


Alison Roman  41:20

Yeah I was like, worst case scenario, because we don’t know what’s about to happen. We don’t know if it’s getting better, if it’s getting worse, right? And like, interest rates were really, really low, and I could afford it, because most people didn’t consider it like a viable residence, because it was a pizza restaurant. But not me. I was like, seems great pizza restaurant.


Samantha Bee  41:39

I am a homesteader now, and I live in a restaurant.


Alison Roman  41:42

Yeah? Basically, yeah.


Samantha Bee  41:44

Do you how do you eat when you’re on the road, when you’re traveling so much poorly, it’s very it’s.


Alison Roman  41:50

I don’t like doing it. I don’t like doing it anymore. Like, like, going on the road for like, stretches at a time is not for me anymore. That’s like a young person’s game. I just, I don’t want to do it.


Samantha Bee  41:59

It’s too hard.


Alison Roman  42:00

It is too hard because you also, like, you finish a thing and you’re like, well, everything’s closed. So like, I’m not actually eating like, a full meal, or, like, I’m rushing to eat at like, five, and then I don’t know, my the whole system gets thrown off.


Samantha Bee  42:14

It does, I’ve had a whole reflection after doing some very bad travel in airports where I was like, this is you’re meeting people when people are in an airport and you’re traveling for work, people are at a vulnerable spot. They need to eat something. They’re probably upset. You know, you’re like, sad.


Alison Roman  42:33

You’re like, who’s going to take care of the weary traveler? Because it’s nobody at the airport, please.


Samantha Bee  42:38

They’re not, and I’m like, there are such simple fixes to this airport situation. I’m like, please just offer people cheese and crackers. You’ve got to have more cheese crackers.


Alison Roman  42:47

There’s, it’s like a part, you got to show up. There’s got to be a free bowl of nuts and a little wedge of Monterey Jack with, like.


Samantha Bee  42:54

Can we have some fresh bread? Can we just, like, have some thing? There’s some such basic staff of life issues at an airport where people are there for 12 hours sometimes.


Alison Roman  43:03

I think I would kill at an airport if somebody gave me a lot of money to develop and and, like, oh, design a restaurant concept for like, four of the top airports in the country, they would crush I would do such a good job, because you have, like, the shake shacks and like, you know? Okay, that’s an established burger restaurant that, like, yep, is in the airport. And people are like, oh, wow, there’s a Shake Shack here. Every other restaurant in an airport is something you’ve never heard of.


Samantha Bee  43:30

You’ve never heard of it, and they’re making it’s not a place.


Alison Roman  43:33

Like, there’s no reason it should be them and not me, you know. So I’m talking like a meat and three style, like, beautiful, like rotisserie chicken with some vegetables, there’s like, one soup.


Samantha Bee  43:42

It’s just, it can’t be that hard. I’m like this, you have advanced TSA operations. You’re letting on Memorial weekend, like 30 million people traveled, and, like, reserved, 10% of the people to bring in rotisserie chickens.


Alison Roman  43:58

Yeah, exactly. Somebody listening to this is like, works in airport food service. And it’s like, you have no idea how hard it is. You guys are delusional. How dare you. I’m like, how hard?


Samantha Bee  44:10

Just offer cheese please.


Alison Roman  44:13

I almost missed my flight the other day because I went to a Joe and the juice at some airport. And I was like, can I have the blah, blah, blah, and they’re like, Oh, we’re out of kale. And I was like, Okay. I was like, Can I have that? And they’re like, We don’t have any cucumbers. And I was like, can I have this? And they’re like, oh, we’re actually out of that. And I was like, and I just, I was like, I gotta go.


Samantha Bee  44:30

You’re just like, can I get some cheez, its coke? And they’re like, yeah.


Alison Roman  44:34

You’re, you’re literally bringing ingredients and food to, like, the most inconvenient place in any given city. So, like, I understand and I don’t. I never begrudge the people that work at the place I was mad at the lady. I was just like.


Samantha Bee  44:48

No, where’s the road to search again. Yeah, it’s not. It’s not the ladies fault.


Alison Roman  44:54

Life to be rude to airplane, airport service people.


Samantha Bee  44:58

Absolutely not, but we could. Have, on a very basic level, a sweet green.


Alison Roman  45:04

Yeah, I’m sure they’re working on it. I’m sure, I’m sure they’d love to be in it.


Samantha Bee  45:07

Come on. Or, you know, Alison Roman.


Alison Roman  45:10

I just want you to do that so badly. Alison Roman, and they’ll be like, what do you have there? And I’ll be like, you’ll have to come and find out.


Samantha Bee  45:18

You’ll have to. It’s just a variety of deliciousness. Do you like watching because this is my last question, because I need to know. Do you like watching the bear? Can you watch bear? Don’t you love it?


Alison Roman  45:28

I love that show so much. I mean, I just am a fan of the show. I’m a fan of the actors in it. I’m a fan of the script. I’m a fan of I think they’ve done such a great job of kind of showing the emotional complexities of what it’s like to work in a restaurant, but also tapping into the emotional complexities of the type of person that decides to work in a restaurant. It’s not a regular individual. There’s some stuff going on. And as a person who experiences that themselves, I’m like, wow, I talk about feeling seen, you know, but.


Samantha Bee  45:56

Oh yes, I love it. I think it’s a great show. It’s a great show. I feel also that they captured the urgency of being behind, like, in a restaurant.


Alison Roman  46:05

Yeah, stressful a lot. You’re like, oh, this is stressful. Just like, it is stressful to work in a restaurant.


Samantha Bee  46:09

Just like, yes, it makes my blood pressure. It’s just, and I love it, yeah.


Alison Roman  46:12

The backstory of like, the the families and the like, it really paints a accurate portrayal of, like, here’s how a person who decides to dedicate themselves to working in a restaurant is made, you know, here’s where they come from, and here’s what they’re seeking in a restaurant environment. And like, why the restaurant environment is like that? It’s like all woven in together. It’s fascinating subject to me.


Samantha Bee  46:34

Yeah, it’s a beautiful tapestry. Well, I thank you so deeply for this. This was so fun for me.


Alison Roman  46:40

Oh, same I really am just such a fan of yours. I can’t say it enough times. You’re so important just to culture.


Samantha Bee  46:47

Well, you’re important to culture also.


Alison Roman  46:51

Thank you.


Samantha Bee  46:52

That was Alison Roman, and I had no choice but to look up one thing. She has had so much success with online recipes. So I needed to know what was the most searched for recipe last year? Well, turns out, in 2023 the most people Googled how to make a McDonald’s grimace shake. I find that so shocking. I have never tried one. It definitely sounds scary and purple and disgusting, but also maybe delicious. Okay, thank you so much for joining us. I’m Samantha Bee. See you next week for some more choice words.


CREDITS  47:56

Thank you for listening to Choice Words, which was created by and is hosted by me. The show is produced by […], with editing and additional producing by Josh Richmond. We are distributed by Lemonada Media, and you can find me @realsambee on Instagram and X, follow Choice Words wherever you get your podcasts or listen ad free on Amazon music with your Prime membership.

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