Antoni Porowski, the food guy on the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” is back in Kansas City for the release of his book “Antoni in the Kitchen.”
Similar to the food gospel Porowski espouses on the TV show — teaching guests to cook dishes that are both manageable and delicious — his cookbook may seem high-brow at first glance, but it’s definitely geared to the average cook.
“I love frozen peas,” he said. A little butter, a little salt, done in four minutes, anyone can afford them, is his thinking. They’re in the book.
On the show, the “Queer Eye” team, known as the Fab Five, improves the life of a “regular” person who’s been nominated by a friend, family member, or coworker for some extra love and support. Seasons three and four took place in Kansas City.
The nominated people are referred to as “heroes.” Porowski’s role is to help these heroes in the kitchen.
In one episode, he worked with a Kansas Citian named Wesley who’d been confined to a wheelchair after a shooting in his 20s left him paralyzed. It wasn’t that Wesley didn’t want to cook, he just didn’t know where to begin.
Porowski taught him to make spaghetti sauce, right down to smashing and skinning garlic. But Wesley had never seen anyone handle garlic, which Porowski only understood after a producer pointed it out.
“Never take for granted what someone may or may not know in the kitchen,” Porowski said. He repeated the move for Wesley several times. “That was his favorite part of the entire thing. He was fascinated by it.”
For Porowski, some kitchen skills are second nature. Throughout the book, he reveals personal details of his life, including that he watched his mother cook for years without ever actually doing it himself.
He began throwing dinner parties at the age of 14—candles, music, good food, to the amazement of his friends. He was trying, he writes in the book, to recreate the family meals he longed for during a period when his parents had separated.
That’s something he’s still trying to do “in some way, shape or form, whether it’s the heroes on the show or with the cookbook, or even having a restaurant. It’s like, I love creating that experience,” he said.
So, when he meets someone who’s struggling in the kitchen, his approach to that other person is very grounded and human.
And even though he’s the so-called expert in the room— a title he’s not necessarily comfortable with — he’s also familiar with the self-doubt a lot of new cooks feel.
“I think self-doubt comes with anything,” Porowski said. “It comes in relationships, it comes in work, even like, family dynamics. It doesn’t discriminate.”
He said his self-doubt runs so deep, he even questioned whether he was “gay enough” to be a member of “Queer Eye.”
“It was just assumed that I was 100 percent gay. I don’t know if anybody is, or maybe some people identify that way, but for me, I’ve always been somewhere along the continuum in terms of how I identify,” Porowski said.
At times, he also questions his culinary prowess, but that’s just on the bad days. He can usually talk himself down by listing his strengths and reminding himself of his purpose on the show.
He said, “I’m somebody who loves to learn about food, and I don’t want to be, like, an intimidating or imposing figure on a lot of these heroes, and I want to make it accessible and simple and easy.”
Antoni Porowski spoke with KCUR on a recent edition of Central Standard. Listen to the full conversation here.