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November/December 2019 Cover Story: All Hail Antoni Porowski

Reality TV royalty and Queer Eye food guy Antoni Porowski brings the heat to the kitchen both on and off screen…

By Jumol Royes

If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen – because when Antoni Porowski is in the kitchen, you know it’s going to get hot.

Porowski has been heating things up all year long: he’s part of the Fab Five, reality TV’s unofficial royal family (a.k.a. the cast of the Emmy Award-winning show Queer Eye); he’s partnered with big brands like GE Appliances (he helped launch their chic Café Appliances collection earlier this year); his health-conscious, fast-casual restaurant (The Village Den in New York City) is celebrating its one-year anniversary; and he has a new cookbook, appropriately titled Antoni in the Kitchen.

The 35-year-old is making bold moves and has a knack for turning the temperature up a notch just when it seems like he might be getting ready to simmer down. Not bad for a Canadian boy who started out busing tables in a supper club.

Born and raised in Montreal by Polish immigrant parents, Porowski’s passion for food comes naturally. He grew up watching his mom prepare traditional dishes, like kielbasa served with sauerkraut and Polish mustard, for him and his family: “I never cooked with my mother; she didn’t like anyone helping her in the kitchen. But she was happy to let me sit with a little snack at the other end of the island and just watch,” he shares in his cookbook (available in bookstores now).

By the time he was 14, he was cooking and hosting dinner parties for friends. Not long afterwards, he got his first job working in a restaurant as a busboy and food runner, and he continued working in restaurants – where he devoured everything he could about food – while studying psychology and art history at Concordia University, and taking acting classes on the side.

Porowski’s first big break came after moving to the Big Apple, where he met and started working for Ted Allen, the food and wine expert on the original Queer Eye. Working alongside Allen provided the perfect opportunity for Porowski to discover and refine his own culinary philosophy: “food should tell a story, and the heart and stomach are inter-connected.” It also served as preparation for his next big break – when the student became the teacher, and Porowski joined the cast of the revamped Queer Eye as the show’s specialist on all things related to eating and drinking.

For the love of food
While Porowski is perhaps best known for putting Greek yogurt in guacamole in Season 1 of Queer Eye, viewers might not have noticed that he’s got a soft spot for omelettes, which he showed off in Season 2.

“Omelettes ARE romantic!” he proclaims. “I’ve always been a sucker for films, music and food related to new love.”

That’s just one of the many culinary mantras he shares in his new cookbook, co-authored by Mindy Fox. He hopes the book, which has already made it to the number two spot on the New York Times Bestseller List, inspires people to reflect on their personal history and relationship with food.

“Everyone has their own culinary memoir if they think about it long enough.”

On the flip side, not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to follow their passion; fewer still find a way to apply that passion to make a good living that pays the bills. Porowski has been able to do both. He’s forever grateful to be part of Queer Eye and for the global platform to do what he loves most.

“It’s been an honour. It’s changed the way I approach work,” he says of the show that’s gearing up for a special four-episode Tokyo season (Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!) coming to Netflix November 1.

“When your daily job gives you a sense of meaning, that becomes the norm going forward.”

The thorns of the rose are hidden by the bloom
From the outside looking in, 2019 has more or less resembled a bed of roses for Porowski professionally. His personal life, however, has been a little thorny.

This past summer, he and his boyfriend broke up after one year of dating (the breakup followed a split from his longtime partner, Joey Krietemeyer, in 2018). In a conversation with Andy Cohen on his SiriusXM radio show, Andy Cohen Live, Porowski opened up about how he’s doing.

“As somebody who’s pathologically co-dependent – and I constantly lose myself in my relationships and forget who I am – I’m trying to figure out who the hell I am right now. So I’m taking it slow, and watching a lot of Housewives, and eating a lot of Swedish fish, and just living my best life.”

We’ve all been there and we can all relate. For Porowski, who has publicly acknowledged having “a very intimate relationship with addiction” and “a very good understanding of what depression is like,” practising self-care and staying grounded is key.

“I sleep eight hours a night. I meditate for 10 minutes every morning after my workout. I listen to a lot of music that inspires me,” he says.

#jestemLGBT (I am LGBT)
In the introduction to his cookbook, Porowski is very honest about his fears and his feelings, talking about the crippling self-doubt that washed over him upon learning that he had been chosen to join the cast of Queer Eye:

“I questioned whether I was gay enough to be on a show called Queer Eye,” he says. “…I had never come out as gay, never felt polarized at one end of the sexuality spectrum, never felt entirely sure whether I’d live forever as a gay man or fall in love and spend my life with a woman.”

But the newly minted author, who self-identifies as a member of the queer community and sees his sexuality as “fluid,” is steadfast in his commitment to use his platform to shine a light on issues of social justice impacting LGBTQ people.

He recently penned an op-ed for the Washington Post in which he spoke out against violence, bigotry and growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment in Poland, a country near and dear to his heart. In the article, he encouraged readers to express their support on social media with the hashtag #jestemLGBT (I am LGBT) and called on them to sign a petition imploring the European Union to stand with Poland’s LGBTQ community.

The petition, started by All Out – “a global movement for love and equality” fighting for LGBTQ rights around the world – has received just under 55,000 signatures and is very close to reaching its goal. Porowski points to the group as playing a pivotal role in mobilizing people to get involved and help.

“All Out is a fantastic international organization with satellite locations worldwide teaching people how to practise activism safely,” he says.

Marching to the beat of his own drum
After marching in last year’s Montreal Pride parade alongside Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Porowski cemented his status as a bona fide Canadian celebrity, pop culture phenomenon, and one of the hottest stars of reality television today. If you need further proof of his royal hotness, just do a quick Google image search with the words “Antoni Porowski underwear.” Trust and believe; it’s well worth it.

However, Porowski is more modest and introspective when he reflects on his fame and the level of success he’s managed to achieve thus far.

“The future is so unknown. Most of what I’ve accomplished was never part of some master plan,” he reveals. “I can say, though, that I’ve always been adaptable to change and have always taken advantage of opportunities, no matter how absurd at the time, when they would come around.”

When asked about giving advice, he says it’s not really his thing, but offers up these words of wisdom:

“I don’t give advice, but a journey I’m currently on may help: figure out who you are. What you like, what you don’t like. Take your time with it too, and enjoy the process.”

JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-based communications strategist and content writer with a keen interest in personal development and transformation. Follow him on Twitter at @Jumol.

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