What It Was Like to Work on Alison Roman's New Cookbook After a Chance Meeting at the Farmer's Market

PEOPLE Food Intern Sam Burros manifested a run-in with Alison Roman — and six months later she offered him a job testing recipes for Sweet Enough

Sam Burros
Sam Burros

Meeting somebody famous doesn't always go as expected.

When I was a sophomore at New York University in April 2018, Alec Baldwin made a surprise appearance in one of my acting classes. While a starstruck classmate had to immediately walk out of the door and catch her breath, I thought it was cool to meet him but was otherwise underwhelmed.

My encounter with Alison Roman was my classmate's Alec Baldwin moment.

I had just moved back to New York City in August 2021 after staying in Maryland through the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I made a trip to Bed Bath & Beyond to pick up a few essentials for my new home before I decided to grab a quick lunch. As I approached a restaurant, I realized I wasn't quite hungry yet, so I decided to head over to the Union Square Greenmarket to browse the produce.

I turned down Park Avenue and I suddenly had a feeling deep in my chest. I said to myself, "I think I'm going to meet Alison Roman today."

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I approached the farmer's market, making my way into one of the first stands I saw. I examined a variety of potatoes before deciding to move on to look for other goods. As I turned around, I saw Roman standing directly in front of me with a giant neon pink tote in hand. I turned away, too stunned to speak. Was that even her? I noticed a clam tattooed on her arm – it was definitely her.

I collected my thoughts near some zucchini as she started meandering out of the stand. "It's now or never," I thought, before quickly approaching her.

"I'm sorry. I don't mean to bother you, but you're literally Alison Roman," I said.

We stood under the awning and chatted about our new apartments, and then, a man from the stand approached us offering a sample of melon that was sweet as candy (like the kind she suggests for the Ice Cream in Melon recipe in her upcoming cookbook, Sweet Enough). I told her I had a feeling I'd meet her, and we went our separate ways.

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This wasn't my first time engaging with Roman (or at least attempting to). In May 2020, she made remarks about Chrissy Teigen and Marie Kondo, saying the women sold out, and found herself in hot water. She issued an apology as criticism mounted against her — not only for her comments about Teigen and Kondo but critics also accused Roman of cultural appropriation with her recipes.

After reading her apology, I emailed her to offer support and share my perspective about food and identity as an adoptee and a Jewish American.

She didn't respond initially but six months after our chance encounter, she put the pieces together and offered me a paid gig.

"We met at the farmers market a while back, isn't that right?" she said. "I'm finishing up my third book (desserts!) if it's at all of interest, [I] have a few recipes with your name on it."

I almost started screaming on the subway, before frantically responding that I was in.

At this time I was a bread baker at Eataly, so desserts were within my wheelhouse. I prepped my tiny, dishwasher-less apartment kitchen to test a slew of new bakes.

Clarkson Potter
Clarkson Potter

Roman's Sweet Enough is a foray into simple baked goods for home cooks with recipes ranging from pies, cookies, cakes and a chapter just called "I've got all this fruit, now what?"

Most of the recipes I tested didn't involve any special equipment, but the ones that did were well worth it. (I did have to break out the food processor for one of my favorite recipes of the bunch, the Salted Pistachio Shortbreads.)

Related:Alison Roman's 3-Cheese Lasagna

In her newsletter, Roman describes the book as being the kind for the "I can roast a chicken but I can't bake" people. The dishes are not overly sugary. Instead, many of the desserts feature fruits and berries for tartness and acidity, spices that add warmth and complexity, or a healthy pinch of salt to contrast the sweetness.

Sweet Enough is a departure from Roman's previous books, Dining In and Nothing Fancy, which focused more on entertaining and featured a range of savory recipes. However, this book draws more on Roman's past experiences as a pastry chef in kitchens around the country. She manages to slip in a few savory additions, mostly in the form of a tart or pie, so even readers without a sweet tooth can enjoy the recipes inside.

Sweet Enough will be on shelves March 28 and is currently available for pre-order.

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