Let’s get this out of the way: Antoni Porowski knows how to cook. Like, really cook. But after enduring a good deal of ribbing for serving a meal of seasoned avocado in an early episode of Netflix’s hit makeover show Queer Eye, the show’s resident food expert felt some pressure with his first cookbook to finally prove that he’s as much head chef as heartthrob.
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“I’m human. I’m affected by what people say, but at the same time, our executive producer reminded me that I got hired because I’m relatable — not because I’m trying to get someone to make a cassoulet,” he says of the gentle mockery he’s received about his simplistic cooking segments. In his defense, those three-minute segments often set out to help people with little to no culinary experience gain confidence in the kitchen while also navigating a big emotional breakthrough. (Queer Eye’s latest mini-season brings the speed-cooking and speed-therapy to Japan.)
Plus, it’s safe to assume that most of the teasing Porowski receives comes from a place of love. These days, he says, he can’t pass through an airport without a straight dad gushing about how much his family enjoys watching the show together. “It makes me so grateful that it’s something that syncs all of these different people, and that it shows them how much growth can happen from being vulnerable” he says.
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Granted, straight dads probably represent some of Porowski’s tamest fans. Hence Antoni in the Kitchen’s wealth of high school locker–worthy portraits ready to feed the star’s, er, thirsty followers. But look into those soulful eyes and you might just feel them plead with you to try your hand at spicy fennel frico, or meals that reflect Porowski’s Polish upbringing in Montreal, like tangy zurek.
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“We live in a culture that’s so much about self-care, but I’m always at my happiest being of service to other people.”
Which is to say, the book is a skillful blend of personality, substance, and, yes, relatability — no matter what your current skill level. “People who pretend they don’t give a shit about cooking always still have at least a couple people that they want to show up for,” he says. “I wanted to play up that impetus to remind people why they should cook — to say ‘I love you,’ or ‘Sorry,’ or ‘Thank you.’ We live in a culture that’s so much about self-care, but I think you can get into troubled waters when you forget that there are other people around you. I’m always at my happiest when I’m being of service to other people.”
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Since its release this fall, the book has been such a hit that there are now entire Instagram accounts dedicated to recreating its recipes, Julie & Julia–style. Which begs the question: if a modern remake of that Nora Ephron classic were in the works, who would Porowski rather portray him: Amy Adams or Meryl Streep?
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“Amy Adams,” he answers. “Growing up, I was beyond obsessed with Cruel Intentions — I had the whole thing memorized. And when Cruel Intentions 2 came out with Amy Adams, it wasn’t as good, but it was still sinister and dark. Even when it’s shitty pizza, it’s still pizza.” And if you’re looking to serve non-shitty pizza? Porowski suggests topping your dough with pickled wild mushrooms. They’re on page 64.