Queer Eye Cutie Antoni Porowski Dishes on Season 2
We almost have more reboots than original TV shows at this point, and there’s a makeover show for just about everything, from fishtanks and tiny houses to Honey Boo Boo’s mom and The 600-Pound Virgin. So it made sense that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy would get pulled out of storage and dusted off for another trot down the runway at some point. Breezily rebranded as Queer Eye, the show dropped on Netflix this winter with relatively little fanfare—and turned the populace into a goddamn blubbering mess. Those expecting a trifling “try a pop of colour, henny” instead fell deeply in love with a Fab 5 who are less “a few gay dudes with good taste doing makeovers” and more “shining beacons of human goodness in the smoldering wasteland that is our modern existence.” In the programming coup of the year, Netflix managed to drop a second season mere months after the first, whetting the public’s appetite for tearful confessions, deep human connection and what a little pomade and a good polo shirt can do for your self-confidence. Canada counts one of our own among Queer Eye’s Fab 5, Montreal boy Antoni Porowski: former aspiring actor, extreme hot person and all-around sweetheart who shows makeover subjects how to prepare delicious treats. Now that you’ve had a chance to binge season two of Queer Eye on Netflix, check out what Antoni had to say about the haters who claim he doesn’t cook enough on the show, co-napping with Jonathan and the one recipe you need to master.
What were you most intimidated by going into filming this show?
Just talking and sharing about food in a public way—so the very things that make up my role on the show, ironically enough, but they’ve learned to be the most gratifying. Food has always been very intimate and very sacred to me; it’s how I share my love with my loved ones, and my friends, and my family, so to be doing that in a professional capacity, it definitely made me a little nervous. Because it wasn’t part of my masterplan. This wasn’t what I thought my life was going to be like. I had other ideas. Also: knowing that it is documentary-style and it was made very clear to us that this was not going to be a fluff show for product placement. This was going to be really intimate conversations and connections with people who have accomplished great things and have had struggles in their life and who just deserve a bit of love and care from five strangers. It was very clear to me quickly that this wasn’t going to just be us asking them questions and them opening up to us—we were also going to have to play a part in that conversation as well by sharing our own stories. If the hero is a little more shy, we have to share our stories and sort of make it a little easier for them, right? I’m pretty guarded and very private; I don’t really disclose a lot about my public life—it’s something I really separate from work—and I knew I was going to have to do that. But the scenes that I’m most proud of are the ones where I shared most about myself, where I kind of didn’t want to at first, but I really leaned into the fear. Like sharing about coming out. I’m so grateful Tan invited me because he knew I had a story to tell, that I didn’t want to share necessarily, or wasn’t ready to. But I did it. The stuff I was most afraid of—I’ve learned that to be the most satisfying and, I think, the most helpful to others.
What moment did you really know that the Fab Five vibed together?
It was a moment in chemistry testing [when potential cast members interact with each other to see which pairings are the best fit]. They were switching us up and show us photos, and we would give our opinions on them. It was weird: we were finishing each other’s sentences and just riffing off each other. And I lit up with joy because these guys are so intelligent and funny, and we’re so different, too. I’d never experienced this. I’d never met anyone like Jonathan or Tan or Karamo or Bobby before, and it was behaving truthfully in this weird imaginary circumstance that was set up by casting folks and everything, yes, but it was like, “oh, wow, this is really fun!” I remember David Collins, the show creator getting really excited, and running around in the back, all hyped up, and I was like, “oh, this is what it feels like.” I’ve been to hundreds of auditions, anywhere from French waiter to Polish terrorist, where I’m just told, like, “Thanks, have a good day.” And to experience the feeling of casting folks getting excited and being like, “Okay, just tweak your hair a little bit. Let’s put a tiny bit of undereye under your eye, and like this cream-coloured shirt is doing nothing for your skin tone. Let’s change you into this.” Like, they’re really trying. They want you to get the job.
Even the crew is helping people!
That feeling—ugh, I don’t know if I’ll ever feel anything like that again, but that was so special.
What would people be surprised to learn about your co-stars?
Tan has an insane sweet tooth. He was on a family trip with my father and my stepmom a few months back, and we were on a little French island in the Caribbean, and they have pastry shops and bakeries. And usually when I’m down south, I eat very light. It’s a lot of grilled fish and fresh fruit and iced coffees—but Tan had to have three pastries in the morning. He works out so much, so I’m not shaming him right now, but he had to have three pastries to start off his day, and he would have to have some kind of cake for lunch with, like, crème or icing. It was pretty astounding. We were all kind of shocked. Jonathan—we have this ritual when he would come into town once every two months, and he would demand that I mark off an entire day: we started off by going to the gym together, going to lunch, going shopping, and then having a little nap at my place, and then cooking dinner and hanging out. He’s really hyper. The way I am, which isn’t a surprise to anyone, even though I tend to be a little more subdued sometimes. Karamo has this incredible ability to literally close his eyes and fall asleep immediately, even if it’s for 10 minutes. And then he’ll open his eyes when the cameras are rolling, and he’s, like, back at it. It’s a little disturbing, but really fascinating. I kinda want to know more about that, and if there are other people in the world who are like him. Bobby is very sensitive to temperatures. He doesn’t like it when it’s too hot. He likes things when they’re nice and cool, which makes sense cause he’s an L.A. boy and there’s a lot of air conditioning in Los Angeles. He’s also the ninja of the group: if there’s any press or media thing, he’s got alerts for everything and he’s the first to relay any information, or fact, or article, or tweet that comes up.
Why do you think people have responded so strongly to the show?
The concept is actually so simple, it’s almost kind of sad to see how refreshing people find it to watch people treating each other with kindness on TV. We’re not used to that in the unscripted world, which has a reputation of being a vehicle for fueling toxic relationships and animosity and gossip, where people aren’t nice to each other, and are throwing literal and proverbial cocktails at each other and flipping tables. And that’s not what we’re about. Yeah, we throw each other shade every once in a while, and a little sarcastic comment, but there’s only love at the foundation of it: it’s just five friends who are helping other people. And I think we all want the idea of a Fab Five in our lives at some point or another. There’s a universality there to wanting to have that. And if you don’t want it for yourself, you probably want it for someone who you know and love, who could benefit from someone coming in and saying, like, “Hey! Let’s talk about these picture frames—or lack thereof—and these thumb-tacked posters on the wall. And let’s explore these in a way where you can show them off and be proud of them as mementos.” Or “Take care of your beard a little bit and just keep it nice and clean.” They’re small little tweaks that encourage respect for yourself and for the people that have to look at you.
Does it ever get under your skin when there’s all these people online complaining that you’re not cooking enough on the show?
The scenes are so short. I would love to show me showing someone how to do an entire meal prep and edit it down into two minutes where people can actually learn a lot of facts. The experience we have with the person is a lot longer—it’s several hours that are spent—and I’m confident that I’m doing a good job to help them improve their lives in the contact I have with them off-air, through social media and texts, and food that they prepare after we leave and how they’re showing up for their family. That’s what I need to know. Unfortunately, it’s just not the medium for it. I try to explore food in a more — in a more in-depth way in other venues of my life, with different business endeavors. But that’s really all that I can do. It is challenging sometimes, tackling [all of the issues], so one episode will be more food-heavy than another, but I’m doing my best.
If you could pick one dish you think everyone should know how to make, what is it? And what is the secret to making that dish amazing?
Everyone should know how to make the perfect roast chicken. If you buy a really cheap one, it’s about five or six bucks. If you buy one that’s air-chilled, that’s organic, that hasn’t been cooped up in a cage where it can’t move its whole life, you’ll probably pay 12 or 14 dollars. It’s something that can last you a few days. There’s so much meat on it, it’s very bang-for-your-buck, whether you’re single and you can add it to your meal prep for the whole week and make six different dishes with it, or you can cook for an entire family. It’s something that’s so versatile. The most important thing for chicken is temperature and seasoning. The chicken can’t be ice-cold before you put it in the oven, because it tends to get a little tough. Let it warm up a little bit. Season the cavity so that the flavours are accentuated with the help of salt, lemon zest, soft and hard herbs, onion, garlic. Or you can make it different with chipotle. You could actually make a roast chicken that has notes of any type of cuisine. It’s learning about spice rubs, getting it under the skin, and then for temperature, really heating it at a high heat at first, to really get a golden crust and seal in all the juices, and then you lower it a little bit so that it fully cooks through. I’ve butchered many chickens: ruined them, overcooked them, undercooked them. It takes a lot to figure out, but it’s important for everyone to know how to do it right.
Queer Eye season two is available now on Netflix.