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The Triumphant Montreal homecoming of Antoni Porowski

Richard Burnett
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Antoni Porowski is looking forward to homecooked meals with his family when he returns to Montreal to launch his new cook book Antoni in the Kitchen. The chef, actor, model and television personality shot to international fame as the food and wine expert in the Netflix reboot of Queer Eye. 

After graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology from Concordia University, Porowski moved to New York City where he studied at the legendary Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, working all kinds of restaurant jobs to pay the bills while he auditioned for acting roles.

Then came Queer Eye

Here is my recent Q&A with the NYC-based Porowski who launches Antoni in the Kitchen at the Rialto Theatre in Montreal on October 3.

 

Queer Eye is fun and uplifting. What is the key to the show’s continued success? 

We continue to show diversity in the personal stories of our heroes, ever-expanding on our message of the universality of the very human fact that we all deserve love and to be heard. 

 

Your new book Antoni in the Kitchen shows cooks of all levels how to become more confident and casual in the kitchen. 

The book is a culinary memoir. From my Polish heritage, years in Montreal as a young kid and then university student, to my life in New York now, it’s a collection of the recipes that have shaped me into the person I am today. 

 

How did you teach yourself to cook?

I learned from PBS, cookbooks and various food shows. I have always been curious about food and the importance of dishes in specific cultures. 

 

You paid your dues working as a busboy, waiter, sommelier and personal chef before you opened your restaurant The Village Den in New York’s West Village in October 2018. 

My first restaurant job was actually on Saint-Laurent Boulevard at a place called Mediterraneo, then Baïla and finally Buonanotte. Working in a restaurant helped me nurture lifelong interpersonal skills. You deal with all kinds of people when you’re a waiter. You work long hours, often holidays, and often till late at night or early in the morning. Restaurants have taught me a good work ethic, I like to think. 

 

On what side of the great Montreal bagel debate do you fall: Fairmount Bagel or St-Viateur Bagel? 

St-Viateur because it’s simply the best, zero discussion. A warm sesame with whipped Liberté cream cheese or smoked salmon spread is all I need in life. Alongside a coffee from Olimpico, of course. 

 

I must also ask: When you’re in Montreal, do you have a favourite poutine restaurant? 

Banquise reminds me of my university days. Otherwise I’m not above Lafleur or any diner I can find. 

 

Our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosted a Pride-themed Q&A brunch fundraiser for the Liberal Party with you in 2018, then you both marched together in the Fierté Montréal Pride parade. What was that experience like? 

Surreal, at the very least. I was honoured to have been included in Montreal’s Pride march. We had a chance to spend the day together and even enjoy a really nice lunch atop Hotel Nelligan. 

 

Your high visibility has made you an LGBTQ2 role model. What does this responsibility mean to you? 

I do not take it lightly. My recent attention has been directed towards Pride marches – many happening for the first time – in Polish cities. We are lucky to march safely in Montreal, while others are not so fortunate. I have a responsibility to bring attention to injustice not only in my country of residence, but also to honour where my parents came from. 

 

Guys flirt with you everywhere you go. How do you deal with the constant attention? 

Public love is very different from intimacy with an individual. I can differentiate the two and, in my personal life, seek out the latter for validation. 

 

How do you prefer to identify – as gay? Queer? Fluid? Or do you resist labels? 

Labels confine me. If I do not belong to a category, I cannot be owned or expected to be a certain way. I like being an immigrant as much as I like not subscribing to a specific identity.  

 

Last December, your Calvin Klein underwear photo shoot by photographer Damon Baker was deemed too risqué by Instagram and removed by Instagram for violating its “community guidelines on nudity or pornography.” What did you think of the controversy? 

Unnecessary. Damon is a brilliant photographer and I was honoured to work with him and look forward to more opportunities in the future. 

 

Your hometown book launch at the Rialto Theatre on October 3 will also benefit the Mile End Mission. Are you excited to return home? 

Beyond excited! I can’t wait to visit my dad and his girlfriend and her kids. They are my Montreal family and I’m excited for tarte au sirop d’érable with my coffee for breakfast.  

 

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Antoni Porowski of Queer Eye launches his new cook book Antoni in the Kitchen at the Rialto Theatre on October 3, presented by Librairie Drawn & Quarterly. Porowski will be in conversation, followed by a cooking demo and audience Q&A. There are also limited VIP tickets for a pre-show photograph opportunity with Antoni Porowski, with a donation to the Mile End Mission. For more information and tickets, visit mtl.drawnandquarterly.com or www.antoniporowski.com