Antoni Porowski’s Hottest Cooking, Hosting, and Grocery-Shopping Tips [Exclusive]
Who has the best gig of all of the Queer Eye coaches? For us here at The Kitchn, that’s too easy — hands-down, it’s got to be Antoni Porowski, the food and wine expert. Of the Fab Five, getting to assist the “hero” with cooking skills and culinary ambitions is the dream (or, at least, our favorite part) for every home cook watching from the couch. Before joining the cast, the Canadian-born TV personality (and icon) worked as a waiter, sommelier, general manager, and even a food consultant in New York City — and he learned a whole lot along the way.
We sat down with Porowski to talk about his favorite hosting tips and go-to ingredients he can’t live without (and how he gets them), cooking for his sweet dog, and more, while he’s promoting his partnership with Canada-based tea brand DAVIDsTEA.
Burning Food Questions with Antoni Porowski
What’s the most important cooking lesson you learned in and around professional kitchens?
To never underestimate the importance of meal prep. Basically mise everything out into place, have all your ingredients ready. It’s incredibly important in a restaurant when you’re dealing with multiple services in a night. But applying that to your personal life, whether it’s a weekday and I’m making food for me and Kev, I love to prep all of the elements ahead of time — I wash my greens, I let them dry out so that they’re not wet. I can make my vinaigrette ahead of time for a salad. I can roast my veggies and then just kind of heat them up. If it’s a protein like meatballs, I can prepare them ahead of time and then just have to reheat it. If you prepare everything ahead of time, it just kind of makes the rest of the evening go so much more smoothly. And all that’s left is cleaning basically. And especially for dinner parties as well, which can be so intimidating for people. Dessert should be made in the morning if it’s possible so that it’s ready to go. And then you just focus on your main course — cutting your ingredients up, putting them into containers, and having everything ready because it’s all those tiny little steps that you think, like, “Oh I just need to chop up a red bell pepper into like little one-inch cubes” — that’s still a few minutes that’s taken away from checking on the temp of your fish, for example, or whatever it is that you’re making. So prep as much as you can, and have all those elements ready.
Is that your best tip for hosting a party — prepping everything beforehand?
“One hundred percent, especially for a dinner party. ‘Cause what I’ve learned, even though my comfort zone is really in the kitchen, more so than socializing sometimes, your guests wanna hang out with you. They don’t want you to just be in the kitchen the whole time. It’s one thing if they come in and they’re asking questions about what it is that you’re making, you can involve them, but at the same time, if you’re just there stressing and trying to get all of your elements ready while you’re hosting, you’re just going to end up being stuck in the kitchen. Which is not ideal when you’re entertaining — host first, cook second.
Do you have any rituals revolving around the kitchen?
Usually on Sunday night or on Monday I have a grocery store that I go to regularly and then I have one that I order from that’s way uptown because they have the eggs that I like. I wanna make sure that I’m stocked for the week, whether I’m traveling or not. There’s certain things that I always have to have and I always have to have a few dozen eggs because we go through about eight eggs a day in our house between me and my fiancé. I wanna make sure that I always have a big bowl of lemons ‘cause I go through a lot of citrus, especially in the summer, and also shallots — I always have a big bowl of shallots. Well, actually Sundays I try not to leave my couch because that’s my lazy day (laughs). But Monday is when I try to go to the market. I want to go get things in person like seasonal produce that’s available right now.
Do you have specific tips for picking out produce?
I have a pretty good mental log of how produce works — especially in the summer months and then leading into early fall. I recently was on the hunt for peaches and I ended up going to two different markets to just scope out the best donut peaches. I didn’t find any that were ready, so I had to pivot to yellow peaches, so it’s kind of just about following whatever ingredients are there and then going with every intention of getting them. And if it’s not available, then I kind of pivot. Watermelons are available year-round at this point with wonderful small seedless watermelons from Mexico. So if I can’t do a grilled peach style that I wanted to make, I can easily pivot to watermelon with olive oil, fresh cracked pepper, fresh mint, and some like grilled halloumi or feta for example, or I could incorporate cherries into it. I always make a plan and then I’m always prepared that the plan might not work out. So just figure out how to have easy pivots in your back pocket.
I hear you have a favorite DAVIDsTEA blend — can you spill the tea on that?
“I’ve been in love with DAVIDsTEA for a really long time, and not only because it’s a Canadian company. I love coffee during the day, but at nighttime, I’m all about rituals. I actually have three favorites: Mother’s Little Helper, which has a little mix of valerian and chamomile. I’m obsessed with the Organic Calming Chamomile because they actually use the whole flower, which surprisingly is really hard to find in teas. The third is Valerian Nights — that’s when I’m severely jet lagged and I really need to get my eight hours of sleep cause I’m religious about getting eight hours every single night, and that one will conk me out without making me feel drowsy and foggy the next day.”
I wanted to ask about your adorable pup, Neon, and how that relates to Yummers, your dog food brand with Jonathan Van Ness. Not all pet parents cook for their dogs, so what’s your philosophy on pets and food?
She definitely inspired Yummers. I am deeply obsessed with dogs, so maybe I would’ve started a pet food company without her, but it makes a lot more sense that I have a pet. I started fostering Neon when everything shut down during the pandemic. I didn’t have the intention of keeping her forever; I just didn’t think that I had the type of life that I could accommodate having a pet. But I’ve learned now that when you fall in love with an animal, you do everything you can to figure out how to make it work, and that’s what I try to do. I didn’t know too much about dog food, but I started making her food and testing out different things that she liked.
I learned that she loved mango skins, but they were terrible for tooting, so I stopped giving her those. And then I learned that whenever I would cook salmon, the smell, especially when the salmon had skin on it, she got especially excited and she would drool. I started giving her salmon skin. I looked up some of the properties of salmon for dogs and you learn that they have omega-3s and it’s really good for their joint health and for their brain over time, so I just kind of started learning like that. And then if there were dishes that I liked for myself, I figured out how to kind of switch them up to make them Neon-friendly.
So chili, for example, as great as it is, there are a lot of elements in there that aren’t good for dogs. I tried to pivot it into a stew using bison meat, but no alliums, no onion, no garlic, things that aren’t great for dogs. It’s kind of been this choose-your-own-adventure while doing a lot of internet research. At Yummers, we have a wonderful team of professionals and vets who help us formulate everything, and we’ve been able to figure out not only treats and things that dogs love, but also things that are really good for them.
Want more Celebrity Burning Kitchn Questions? Check out our chat with country star Miranda Lambert here.