Antoni Porowski Documents His Life through Food

Antoni Porowski Documents His Life through Food

The Queer Eye star’s busy summer season comes to a close with his first cookbook, out now.

The Queer Eye star’s busy summer season comes to a close with his first cookbook, out now.

Text: James Manso

Just as Proust had his madeleines, Antoni Porowski has spiced mangos. The sweet-spicy-savory snack (and Soho street food) is an odd choice for Porowski as one of his favorite recipes in his forthcoming cookbook, given its unique flavor profile—“I was the pickiest eater as a kid,” he says—but it reminds him of his best friend in Montréal, whose mother prepared similar snacks for the two while they would wait for dinner growing up. “I wanted to show people that every dish in my book, there’s a reason why it’s there.”

At the nexus of dining, culture, and memory, Porowski’s chili-sugar mangos are the perfect explanation for the rest of his cookbook. Antoni in the Kitchen, out now, is an ode to Porowski’s past, as told through food. And it comes on the heels of a busy summer season: first with his appearance in Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” music video, then the release of Queer Eye’s fourth season a month later. 

Business aside, Porowski managed to juggle all of the aforementioned projects at once from his Kansas City apartment, where he’d meet with his recipe tester in the evenings after filmings and dictating one-off recipes during the day. The extra hands were necessary: as it happens, Porowski never measures ingredients by hand. “I’ve always cooked from my head and from like watching Julia Child, and chefs who inspire me,” he says.

Child is in good company— the chefs who come up throughout our conversation include Nigella Lawson and, most frequently, his mother. Porowski’s polish heritage, once a source of shame for the actor, plays a hefty role in the book’s lineup. Fried food, pork chops, potatoes and sour cream all had their place (“that’s the basis of Polish cuisine,” he says), but his mom always made room for sophisticated riffs. “Instead of using regular mushrooms, she would use wild mushrooms. She always tried to figure out how to elevate it.”

Porowski recalls learning cooking techniques by watching his mother from the other side of their kitchen island, but he never tried his hand at it until he lived on his own. “It reminds me a little bit of the piano,” he says, in which he was classically trained for a few years in early childhood, much to his younger self’s dismay. “I was so pissed that I had to play it. But then in college, when I wanted to impress a girl—Jessica—I decided to play Coldplay’s “The Scientist” so that I could woo her, and I had that skillset and it came in.”

Porowski doesn’t identify himself as a conventional chef (“I’m not even a chef, I’m a home cook,”) but it’s the ease in his cooking philosophy that maximizes its appeal. Alongside the more elegant recipes that showcase his culinary prowess, like the hunter’s stew (braised cabbage and meats in bordeaux) are more of his simple indulgences. His Mac n’ Cheese, “for when I have a case of the fuck-its,” is another favorite, especially as leftovers. “It makes me happier than anything. I really like having it for breakfast,” he says. “It’s like birthday cake.”

While he felt at home in the kitchen, he also had to try his hand at something new: writing the introductions for each recipe. Written also from Kansas City, they make the volume half-cookbook, half-memoir. As only an actor with an unscripted role would know, there’s no easy way to fake personality without forking over some authenticity. “I would start writing and be like, ‘This is bullshit. I’m repeating the same thing over and over again, it’s not personal. I’m not feeling it.’ And then it would be 11:00 PM when I’m trying to go to bed, and I would suddenly be inspired.’”

The final result of the cookbook is a shape-shifting take on the journals Porowski credits as some of his only previous writing experience, documenting his life through the things he eats and the stories they tell. “My theory is that behind every single dish, whether you’re a crazy person like me who is obsessed with food, we all have recipes that are near and dear to us, from our parents, from our grandparents, that we had on a really bad date, on a really good date,” Porowski said. “Everyone has a cookbook within them. Even if it’s basic and a limited amount, we all have those recipes that are so important to us.”

Antoni in the Kitchen is available now.

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