This Is How Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski Eats | Fast Company

This Is How Queer Eye’s Antoni Porowski Eats | Fast Company

August 12, 2019 100 By William Morgan


– I had 800 followers
before the show came about,
and then all of our
phones, the five of us,
just blew up as a result of the show.
I definitely got more self-conscious
about the types of
things that I would post
and the quality of the photos.
– You definitely show like,
a raunchier side of yourself on Instagram.
– Raunchier?
Some people call it thirsty, I’ve never–
– Right.
Queer Eye has become this monster hit,
but what I’m most interested in
is what you’ve learned
from either your fellow cast members
or just the show in general
over the last couple of years.
– Life has changed a lot.
I think I’ve definitely learned
how to be a lot more
comfortable with myself.
I have this pathological need
for everybody to love me,
I was born with that,
and I’ve always loved to entertain people
and it’s part of the reason why I cook,
’cause that’s how I had
to just do my thing,
my performance art,
and what I’ve learned is that,
when you’re in the public,
everyone’s gonna have opinions.
So either the recipe is too complex,
it’s not complex enough.
You’re using too many
ingredients, too little.
You put Greek yogurt in a guacamole
and people are gonna hate on that
and have their opinions,
even though in Mexico,
they’ve been putting creme on avocados
for guac for so long.
I wish I could take credit
for putting dairy in guac,
but like, it happened way
before I came on the scene.
– [Chris] ‘Cause that did become like a,
a social media storm, right?
– I was in, like, I
didn’t expect that at all.
And it’s like, and you never know
what’s gonna garner the most attention,
but the biggest lesson from that was
that it’s actually physically impossible
for everybody to love me,
and that’s been the best thing,
because when you have so
many more eyes on you,
there are gonna be so many more opinions.
So with as much amazing love as you get,
you’re gonna get just as much
from the other side of the spectrum.
– [Chris] What is the Village Den?
– Actually the name originally
is the name of a diner
that’s been around in this very location
at 225 West 12th for decades and decades
that sadly closed down.
I feel like diners are kind
of a lost art in New York.
The lease became available
and along with my buddies
Eric Marx and Lisle Richards,
we decided to jump on the opportunity
and open up a fast-casual spot.
– [Chris] The food, you know,
there’s a lot of paleo items,
there’s a lot of vegan on there as well,
like it’s a healthy choice restaurant.
– [Antoni] Yes.
– You know, what was the
decision behind that?
– There are so many food
trends out there right now,
and people who subscribe to one method,
and what I’ve learned
with my style of eating,
like, I’m very healthy during the week,
during the weekend I am not,
and I don’t subscribe to just one thing,
for me personally that’s not sustainable,
so we really wanted to offer something
that was kind of across the board,
from whole30, vegan, paleo, pescatarian.
When I look at a dish, I love
to know exactly what it is
by really recognizing
all of the ingredients.
Everybody is a lot more
knowledgeable about food
and being smart about what
they put into their bodies.
And when you’re in your 30s,
you wanna start taking care of yourself.
The 20s are over.
– It all gets hard.
– The party, it all gets really hard.
Surprisingly, even though I tend to eat
more plant-based options during the week,
I’m a big meat eater,
but we’re actually
gonna make a vegan dish.
– Okay.
– So this is a vegan crunchy creamy.
– The fast-casual industry is booming,
there’s a lot of places like
Sweet Green and Dig Inn.
How are you planning to
differentiate yourselves from them?
Manhattan is swarming
with that type of food.
– There’s certainly no shortage,
and I love all these places,
so when we were developing the menu,
I think I approached it kind of the way
that I do with anything that I do,
whether it’s a cookbook
or the work that I do on Queer Eye.
The best feedback that I get
is when things are as
personal as possible,
so I try to just take as much of who I am,
I look at my life story
and there’s always food and recipes
that are kind of intertwined,
like those are my memories.
I cannot remember what city I’m in,
where my apartment is sometimes,
and all of those normal things,
but dishes, when I go to a restaurant
or if I have a food experience,
whether it was delicious or not,
I always have that memory in my mind,
I always know exactly which
components went into it,
it’s like a really
weird thing that I have,
and that’s just kinda what I tried
to implement here with the menu.
So I actually have,
so we have some harissa baba ganoush,
so just roasted eggplant.
It kind of looks like chicken liver pate,
but it’s purely vegan.
Here we have also tumeric
roasted cauliflower.
This is the crispy component.
You don’t need to deep fry things
to have them be crispy,
that’s the lesson here.
– When you think about
trying to bring a dish together
and all those components,
you know, it takes a lot for one plate
to end up as a cohesive
thing in a kitchen.
What would you say are the similarities
between that and running a business?
– Similarities, oh, that’s actually,
that’s a really good question.
Um, well, although I’ve
worked in a restaurant,
in terms of managing
and all of the operations
and things like that that come into play,
I had no knowledge going in,
so it kind of feels like
the wild wild west for me.
But it’s hard,
it’s because I wanna be
in control of every component,
so I think it’s asking
a shit-ton of questions,
not acting like I know everything,
and being able to say like, I need help,
I need to figure this out.
It’s relinquishing whenever I can
and then just trying to,
and then also knowing my opinion.
It’s a tricky balancing act,
but we’re kind of,
I feel like I’m still
figuring it out as I go.
It is so important to
finish every single plate,
even if it’s sweet,
’cause it brings out the flavors more,
with just a bit of finishing salt,
so you get a nice little
added crunch to it.
That’s our vegan crunchy creamy.
I’m not gonna feed you,
but I am gonna prepare the perfect bite,
’cause you have to have
every component together.
– Okay.
So yeah, it’s like a little bit of sweet,
a little bit of salty.
– Yup.
– Thank you.
– There you go.
– Okay.
– The harissa has like a
bit of a nice spice to it,
but it’s still kind of
creamy and decadent.
– It feels way more kind of like indulgent
than it is, if you know what I mean?
Like you feel like–
– Creamy, it’s all about the creamy.
– So you have a cookbook.
How does that kind of play into your,
like, overall master
plan of what you want,
you know, yourself to be as a brand,
or just how you want your business to go?
– I wish I could sit here and tell you,
like, you know what,
I have this master plan,
and let me tell you two
year, five year, 10 year.
I didn’t know how to approach it at first,
and when my editor came up
and they were like, we need 100 recipes,
I was thinking like, how am I
gonna come up with 100 recipes
while I’m filming episodes of Queer Eye?
Like 10 hour shoot days
and then show up at
night and have to cook.
The cookbook is actually,
it’s very personal.
I wanted to be involved in it
as much as I possibly could,
I have a lovely co-author, Mindy Fox,
but like, all of the
head notes were things
that I had to write those in my voice,
and she encouraged that as well
and that was probably just as much fun
as testing the recipes out.
‘Cause you get to look back
on your life through food.
– On the show as well, you know,
you definitely have to keep
things relatively simple.
Do you see this restaurant, the cookbook,
as kind of like an opportunity
to really prove your knowledge
and expertise and skills?
– Yeah, I…
It’s interesting, actually,
at the beginning when we
were filming season three,
I did take some of the criticism to heart,
and I was like, we have to make
these recipes a lot more complex
and I had all these ideas,
and then I was talking with
our two executive producers
and they reminded me like,
this isn’t about your ego,
we know you can cook,
you’ve cooked for all of us,
like, you have to focus
on what the hero needs.
But sometimes it’s like,
it’s coming back to the guacamole
and just realizing like,
what’s their version of that?
Like, that’s what we’re here to do.
It’s not about me.
And the cookbook is a little more complex,
I’d say, than the show,
’cause it’s things that I still,
recipes that I make,
so there is a little more of that.
It’s knowing sort of how to act in like,
in the different environments.
It’s all like life.
Like the Village Den is weekdays.
The cookbook is weekends.
And Queer Eye is not about me
but it’s about being
of service to somebody
who doesn’t have that knowledge
and just trying to
leave like a little seed
and just getting them excited
about one little thing
and hoping that that
turns and that develops
and that gets nurtured into
something bigger and better.
– You’re already in people’s homes
on screen on Queer Eye,
you’re now gonna be in people’s homes
in the form of a cookbook.
Like, what is kind of the next big goal
or, you know, how much further
do you wanna expand what
you’re already doing?
– What Queer Eye has done,
it has completely changed the way
that I wanna approach
everything that I do.
I need everything to have meaning,
because people are smart.
People who see endorsements,
people who like, come here,
like, they’re very intelligent
and you can’t, like
you can’t bullshit them
with trying to pretend to be passionate
about something if you’re not,
like, I have to focus on
being as real as humanly possible
in everything that I do.
‘Cause like, once you get a taste of that,
once you see what it’s like
to actually help somebody do something
that makes you feel good
when you go to sleep at night,
like, you only want to do that
for the rest of your life.
So it’s more gonna be about figuring out
how I can sort of take what I’ve learned
from Queer Eye into
everything else that I do.
(trilling piano)