Queer Eye TV star and bestselling author Antoni Porowski, BA (psychology) 08, returns to his hometown for the Montréal en Lumière Festival to launch his latest cookbook, Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner, at the Corona Theatre on February 25.
The television personality, chef and model scored a New York Times bestseller in 2019 with his debut “culinary memoir” Antoni in the Kitchen. Let’s do Dinner landed in 2021, but Porowski’s book tour was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new book combines simple recipes for those on a tighter budget in these inflationary times with more plant-based, socially and environmentally conscious recipes.
“I don't have as much time in the kitchen as I used to,” says Porowski, who has been Queer Eye’s food and wine expert since 2018. “But I still want to have meaningful, thoughtful dishes that I can prepare relatively quickly.”
Growing up in Montreal, Porowski’s first restaurant jobs were on St. Laurent Boulevard at Meditteraneo, then Baïla and, finally, the popular supper club Buonanotte. “You deal with all kinds of people when you’re a waiter,” says the psychology grad. “You study and go to classes during the day, then you work evenings. It taught me a good work ethic and how to deal with people.”
Porowski says the diversity at Concordia helped expand his worldview. After graduating, he moved to New York City, where he auditioned for acting roles while working in restaurants to pay the bills. The hard work paid off with Queer Eye.
Feeling nostalgic for home
The focus of his current book tour has changed. “With my first tour, we did a lot of moderated discussion,” Porowski says. “At this point, most people who come to my show know who I am. So I start the show off just talking a little bit about food and the role that it has in my life, then I make something from the book.
“I’ve tailored the tour with a different recipe for every city. With Montreal, there’s a lot of nostalgia and a lot of history, so I’m excited to make something that I haven’t made in a really long time.”
Whenever he returns to Montreal, Porowski likes to visit his favourite spots, such as St-Viateur Bagel. “There is no debate — St-Viateur makes the best bagels. And it is perfectly located near Café Olimpico. So you can enjoy your bagel with a latté.”
And in a city filled with delis, Porowski’s first choice remains Schwartz’s in the Plateau. “For me it’s all about Schwartz’s. It’s the one my dad took me to growing up. It’s a classic. I like to get a medium fat. In the summer I would grab a smoked meat and end up at the Tam-Tams [the weekly bring-your-own-bongos meet-up in Mount Royal Park on Sundays] afterwards. That was a perfect day for me.”
Porowski recently wrapped production on season seven of Queer Eye, which has won a record five Emmys for best reality program, and also stars in and executive-produced the new Netflix series Easy-Bake Battle, a culinary competition reality format inspired by Hasbro’s iconic Easy-Bake Oven. “It was fun to film and meet the contestants who work their way up to win up to $100,000,” he says.
Porowski is also developing a feature film for Netflix titled Girls and Boys, loosely based on his real-life dating experiences as a sexually fluid man.
“I want to do something that has a universal message of love without pounding people on the head with it,” he says. “My fiancé is indeed a male, his name is Kevin, and I’m very happily engaged. But I still identify myself as sexually fluid because I have loved women and men.”
Porowski recognizes his public profile makes him a role model for many young LGBTQ+ people around the world.
“I try to attach myself to things that are meaningful and that I care about, and I always try to be open and vulnerable, because with openness, vulnerability and honesty, those are the things people respond to when you’re authentic. But I’m still trying to figure it all out and I take everything day-by-day.”
Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner! An Evening with Antoni Porowski takes place at the Corona Theatre on February 25. The Montréal en Lumière Festival runs from February 16 to March 5.