“This wasn’t part of the plan at all. I wasn’t supposed to be a food guy. This is something that just kind of happened.”
It’s hard not to fall in love with Antoni Porowski’s warm heart, eloquence, and knack for teaching the art of the perfect pancake. If you don’t know him by name, chances are you know him from the Netflix hit Queer Eye.
After watching the show, it’s easy to see Porowski as ‘just the food guy,’ but behind that love of crunchy salt and hearty stew, he’s a massive supporter of self-improvement and overall health.
We sat down with the Queer Eye star before he hit the IGNITE stage with Schitt’s Creek actor Dan Levy for IGNITE’s first RealTalks event of the year.
Porowski dished on all things wellness, growing up in Montreal, and his new cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen.
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How a Montreal boy put Canada on the map
Porowski is not shy about his roots to the great white north. Long before Queer Eye made its debut in February 2018, Porowski spent his early days growing up in Montreal, Quebec. As a culturally diverse mecca, he credits his upbringing in Montreal for shaping his unique love of food from around the world. The Polish-Canadian shared that many of his cookbook’s recipes are inspired by nostalgia.
While he keeps his cool on the show, Porowski admitted to his worst mistake in the kitchen. “I made two roast chickens for friends of mine that were coming over, and I dropped both of them,” he laughed. In his tiny Brooklyn apartment, they dusted off the hairs and acted like it never happened. “In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best idea, but my friends didn’t seem to care that much,” he smiled.
Antoni on overcoming adversity
After his seemingly instant burst to stardom, the former psychology major is often described as the quietest member of the cast, dubbed the “Fab 5” by fans. After landing the role, Porowski admitted to having a case of imposter syndrome. “It made me feel scared and a little angry and a little sad. I’ve been working with my therapist to pinpoint exactly what my feelings are,” he said. “Even though I’m a sensitive person, I’m not good at determining exactly how it is that I’m feeling.”
According to Porowski, the best thing to do when feeling overwhelmed is just to start working, no matter how good or bad it is. “I’m not afraid of failing or of not succeeding at something. It’s always a part of the process,” he shared. “I have plenty of other things that I’m very paranoid and obsessive about, but that’s one thing where I was always like, ‘Okay, so that didn’t work. What’s next?’ It’s not possible for everything to be perfect.”
At over 4.2 million Instagram followers, the food enthusiast is no stranger to the spotlight. But it wasn’t always this way. Since coming into the public eye, he shared how he didn’t expect to be so objectified online. “I thought that was something reserved for early 20’s guys. And I was like 33 when the show came out,” he commented.
He admits his pre-stardom Instagram feed used to be travel photos and “really bad photos of food” (gasp). These days, he opts to be more carefree online. “I know I take myself way too seriously with certain things,” he said. “When something is expected of me, I like to veer things off a little.” Averaging nearly 1,000 comments per photo, it seems his tactics are working.
As for handling the social media fame, Porowski says he has a personal motto he uses whenever he meditates. “It’s ‘I am enough; I have enough.’ Because I can compare myself to others sometimes, and I think if I’m not working hard enough, then I’m not doing enough,” he shared.
Antoni’s top 3 tips for students
As students, we all can relate to feelings of comparison, jealousy, and simply not being good enough. As a Concordia University alumnus, he’s lived the same struggles that many students face.
1. Share your struggles | College is an overwhelming time for many students, but Porowski wants students to know there’s always help. Sometimes it’s not just about getting advice—it’s about being heard. “Sometimes, I don’t want advice, I just want someone to know what I’m going through so that I’m reminded that I’m not alone in my own experience,” he said.
2. Nurture your body | Despite his reputation as being the go-to guy for all things food, Porowski admits to having eaten pretty unhealthily in college. Anyone relate? And even though we can’t necessarily ball out on gourmet ingredients each night of the week, the simple rituals of a healthy dinner are fond moments he has of his days in university. “Omelets cost less than $2. Like I get it, you’re students, but you’re also Canadian students. You’re not as broke as your American counterparts.”
3. Remember, it’s not just about you | Of course, it’s easy to think about all the troubles we face ourselves. But we’re not the only ones. “I think in a culture that’s really obsessed with self-care, which I think is very important, remember that there are other people out there who need help,” he shared. Student life can be debilitating, but he wants us to know others are feeling the same way. “We’re not meant to be alone at the end of the day. We’re supposed to connect with other people.”
The importance of shows like Queer Eye
For those keeping track at home, Queer Eye is a reboot of the original show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which first aired over 15 years ago. The Netflix series features five LGBTQIA+2 people, each with a unique skill set—fashion, hygiene and grooming, décor, culture, and Porowski’s role, food. In the first few seasons, the cast was set in the heart of “Trump’s America,” which the goal to nurture diversity and bridge gaps in the community.
According to Porowski, the show is an essential space for people to connect as human beings. In season one, he recalls making guacamole with guest, Tom Jackson. “The way that they presented him, they made a lot of assumptions about his political ideology and the type of person he was,” Porowski shared. “But he’s the one that gets the most people to cry because they realize how much of a human being he is.”
In this political climate, Queer Eye is essential. But it’s important always. The media should be happy to air content that supports personal growth, mutual understanding, and respect. “Usually, when we’re afraid of other things, it’s because we don’t understand them. And I think that’s when anger and a lot of the aggression come forth,” he shared. “But if we give a little bit of compassion and understand someone as an individual, you realize that they’re a human and actually have a lot of similar struggles to you.”
Lessons we can take from Queer Eye
No doubt, in nearly two short years, Antoni Porowski has won the hearts of viewers in more ways than one. After 33 episodes of teaching others invaluable life skills, Porowski recalls the biggest lesson the show has taught him: don’t judge anyone.
“Never make the assumption or take for granted what somebody may or may not know,” he said. “You never know someone’s experiences, and it’s important not to be judgmental and just to always have an open heart and ask open-ended questions. Just don’t make assumptions about people, because you never really know what they’ve been through, what they’ve experienced, what they may know or not know.”
Stay tuned for our next RealTalks event featuring The Office star, Rainn Wilson.