Everyone loves Antoni Porowski. This has been overwhelmingly evident since he broke onto the scene as the resident culinary consultant on the Netflix version of Queer Eye, and instantly charmed viewers with his earnest empathy and cataclysmically beautiful looks. Perhaps because Porowski comes off as so open and kind, he’s been at the center of several low-grade firestorms revolving around whether or not he actually knows what he’s doing in the kitchen, but he hasn’t allowed any dissenting voices to squash his unbridled enthusiasm for whipping up delicious meals.
In between writing his upcoming cookbook, praising the genius of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (he’s read it twice!) and partnering with Saeco, Porowski found the time to sit down with Observer and fill in the blanks on what he’s been up to lately.
How’s your summer going? You were just in the new Taylor Swift video, what was that like?
So many awesome things are happening, and I try to just enjoy every moment, but it’s this weird thing where you do awesome things and Netflix, as we all know, is super-secretive from ratings to upcoming projects to release dates. We found out a day or two beforehand that our new season [of Queer Eye] is coming out July 19, and it’s sort of like I can finally openly say we did this season. And that was the same thing with Taylor. We did this video and we weren’t allowed to talk about it, NDAs out the wazoo. Like, I went to pee in a port-a-potty and I had to have an umbrella with me because there were paps with helicopters, and they wanted to see who was gonna be in the music video. She created a whole world with this beautiful little fun park with trailers and fruit platters everywhere.
She’s awesome. I had the chance of meeting her at a CAA [Creative Artists Agency] party right before the Oscars a couple of months back. We had a really nice chat, and I didn’t know very much about her at all. I don’t tend to read too much about people that I really like, except autobiographies whenever they come out. I feel like that’s the most honest way, and everything is always warped anyway.
But she’s such a sweet, kind, passionate human being and she has amazing taste in music, and I’m not just saying that because we have a mutual shared love for The National. No, legit, like I would mention a quote from a song, and she’d be like, “oh that’s ‘England,’ oh that’s ‘Beverly Road,’ it’s one of their best songs.” And the way that she treats everybody on her set, it’s just—I’ve been on sets that are stressful that can be male-driven, but part of Queer Eye is that we work with a lot of women, which has always been a much more nurturing environment where I feel like people aren’t competing as much, they’re just trying to figure out how to work together. I’ll make the assumption that every project that Taylor does is exactly the way her music video was, because I know she employs a lot of the same people over and over again. She really keeps a nice, tight circle. Everyone was just genuinely happy to be there. On such a large production, it can be so stressful because you’re dealing with so many chefs in the kitchen, and she ran it like a fuckin’ queen. I really respect her and she’s so awesome.
Are you coming out with new food writing soon?
I have a cookbook coming out [in September], and three days ago, I got the actual copy. It was kind of weirdly emotional because I hadn’t thought about it for a couple months, because I worked on the cookbook while I was in Kansas City, so we would film 10 to 12 hours a day, and then I would go home and test three recipes every night because I had to come up with 100.
Did any of these recipes wind up on Queer Eye?
A few recipes did make it. I struggled when season one came out; I usually did about two to three recipes for every episode, because I didn’t understand how TV editing worked at the time. I was also under the false assumption that this is a cooking show, when it isn’t, and so there were recipes that didn’t fully make it to the final cut. Like for example, with Ari, the young Iranian boy in season two who made tahdig, which is like a crispy rice dish, for his mother, we made fesenjān, which is like this creamy walnut… it’s traditionally made with duck, but I made it with chicken just to make it a little more accessible, and pomegranate molasses and fresh pomegranate seeds.
It was this delicious, warm, comforting stew. It’s like the beef bourguignon of Iran; basically, it’s like celebratory food that you have during the holidays. I made it in the season, and you can see the crock pot with it being warmed up in the background, and I’m like, at least mention the name, I put so much time into it! So I included it in the cookbook because I needed the world to know about it. Well, a lot of people know about it already, but I just wanted to make it even more available.
No, I feel you! I feel like people gave you a hard time in the first couple of seasons, and I sense your frustration when you’re talking about wanting people to know how much effort you put into your cooking.
It’s tricky, because I’d be lying if I said that there wasn’t a part of it that was like, ‘I actually know.’ First of all, I don’t refer to myself as a chef, ever. I’m a home cook, I’m somebody who’s self-taught. I have a tremendous amount of respect for chefs who go to school and have a culinary background, and I don’t try to be that guy. But my job on the show is not to be a chef, it’s to relate people to food. I think it’s about making it palatable and addressing what the person’s needs are and figuring out how you can be of service in such a short amount of time. You want them to have takeaways. I’m not going to go into the details of sous viding and molecular gastronomy with somebody who eats out of cans three to four times a week. I’m not shaming that, but you have to make something that works.
Oh, I eat out of cans three to four times a week.
There you go! So it’s fine.
This interview has been lightly condensed and edited for clarity.