Antoni Porowski is known for his avocados. But on a recent afternoon he was contemplating the coconut, mapping every sultry detail of the tropical fruit as if it were the body of a new lover: the fleshy inside, the milky nectar.
It’s the first day of June when the Polish-Canadian wine-and-dine expert on Netflix’s Queer Eye reboot rings and, oh right, we’re talking about food. But gay America isn’t hungry: It’s thirsty AF.
And because real lives are being changed thanks to Porowski, designer Bobby Berk, culture advisor Karamo Brown, stylist Tan France, and groomer Jonathan Van Ness, it is also joyfully crying.
Season 2 of Queer Eye — note the dropped qualifier, a nod to the show’s new inclusivity — doesn’t skimp on opportunities for you to feel good about this otherwise not-good world, as the Fab Five imparts their best-life insight and general gay wisdom to a diverse group of clients, including the franchise’s first woman and transgender man.
As Porowski continues to process the experience, and the attendant upswing in gay male thirst and avocado sex puns, the 34-year-old subject of culinary controversy talked critics and why variety truly is the spice of life.
In the new promo video for the show, with Betty Who singing the theme, you’re cradling avocados and wearing a crop top. The avocado dick puns have been out in full force.
I guess I asked for it, right? I’m literally wearing a crop top and unsuccessfully trying to juggle avocados, so I shouldn’t be surprised.
I must say, I do hope the crop top becomes your signature look in the third season.
[Laughs.] Thanks! I do have to give credit where it’s due, and that was 100 percent Tan France.
When it comes to you, the thirst is real. What is that kind of attention like from the gay community?
I do maintain a certain amount of ignorance to it — and a kind of detachment. There’s been a lot of really amazing and positive attention from the show. But with that, there’s also gonna be haters. If I’m gonna take the good, I have to take the bad, so I’ve decided to take neither.
I just try to focus on what my next move is with this show, with press that we’re working on, living out of hotels for the past couple of months, and hoping that people really enjoy [this season] as much as they did the first.
When you’re living out of hotels, how do you maintain a healthy diet?
I don’t! That’s the honest truth. I’m not one to deny myself the pleasures of, like, a good ripe stinky cheese on a crusty slice of fresh-baked bread in Paris.
Oh, I’ve seen you indulge on the show.
You’re not afraid of some macaroni salad.
There ya go! Well, but that wasn’t my recipe.
It wasn’t, but you still ate it.
Oh, I ate it. I’ll try anything twice.
Are you still trying to wrap your head around your overnight fame?
Yeah. I mean, it certainly hits in waves. We were just in London, and when you experience people who’ve been waiting outside of your hotel with magazines to sign, it’s kind of like, “Wow, you’re a human with a life and a job, presumably, who wanted to wait to have a moment.” I’m grateful for it, but it’s not something I want to be too comfortable with. It’s very bizarre and very overwhelming.
What my therapist tells me is, “Don’t trust your feelings right now because you’re constantly basically running on adrenaline — your life right now is pure adrenaline.” It’s been like overdrive, so it’s just, take everything very lightly.
What are your gay fan interactions outside of hotels like?
I feel like I’m pretty good at reading people, but with fans, the energy and the direction of it is very different. So my thing is: Ask them a question about themselves, try to make this a human interaction, and try to normalize it, just to make sure that the person has a nice, meaningful experience and they can leave happy.
[But] sometimes I’m left, like, taking care of people. They’ll come up, and their mouths open and they don’t say anything. I have to kind of take care of them and be like, “Are you OK? It’s fine. Here, do you want a hug? Do you want a photo?”
You don’t just go right in for the hug?
No, I’m a little — yeah, I have more of a European sensibility. We like to kiss twice. Or, I don’t know, healthy boundaries?
Kiss twice, though? Everyone must just enjoy meeting you.
How has helping other people on this show changed your approach to your own life?
I’ve had many passions: I studied psychology; I worked as a gallery director; I photographed vintage furniture. And on the acting side of things, that was something that was always very ego[-driven]. I wanted people to look and see and feel my presence, whereas with the show, it actually isn’t that at all. The energy is directed in the other direction, so it’s really us being of service to this person that we’re helping.
We see that happen in the first episode of Season 2, with Mama Tammye
Mama Tammye is an example who spun it on us, and doesn’t even take care of herself and shows up as a teacher and as a member of her church, and for the five of us.
You cried at the end of that episode. Of the Fab Five, who cries the most?
You’re talking to him! When you hear somebody’s struggle, or especially when they’ve overcome something or made a choice like Tammye — there was a lot of pain and a lot of fear and borderline hateful feelings toward gays, and she realized that it was her perspective that was wrong, and she’s a beacon of hope for people.
It’s possible at any age. If you have people like Tammye who were able to figure it out, there’s no excuse for the rest of us.
Even though you’ve been with men and women, you’ve said that you don’t like to call yourself bisexual. Have you found the best way to explain your sexual orientation to people yet?
Not really. And it’s not something I feel too pressured to figure out.
I have very strong opinions about how to cook a filet of salmon so the skin remains crispy and doesn’t stick to the pan, but with a lot of things, I don’t like being the expert. I’d rather go in and be like, “I don’t know.” There’s a power in that for me. It’s sort of like going in with humility and saying, “I’m still trying to figure it out.”
While I don’t think I’m trying to figure out my sexuality, I’m just not as concerned with it anymore. It’s this dynamic process. I’d just rather keep it open and fluid, because that’s how I am with the books that I read, the music that I listen to. All of my interests are always changing, and it’s a constant dynamic process, and so is my sexuality.
Is today June 1?
Today is June 1.
It has me thinking about Pride and what Pride means: the ability to be the truest version of yourself without any negative consequence or fear of being persecuted or judged or criticized or hurt for it. And whatever that is for a person, however you define yourself or don’t define yourself, you should be able to do that with total freedom.
I read that you were a private chef for some high-profile clients.
It was something that kind of happened accidentally, cooking for people. I’m not a classically trained chef, where I’m in a kitchen and I’m doing my own thing; I’m an entertainer, that’s who I am. And I love food, and I love playing with it, and I love preparing it for people. It’s how I show my love.
It wasn’t an everyday thing, where I showed up and made breakfast, lunch, and dinner for someone. I’ve always had, like, 10 different things going on at the same time.
If you could cook for any celebrity, who would it be and what would you cook?
Dead or alive?
They can be dead.
I would take something off of the menu at Voltaire in Paris, and I would prepare it for Oscar Wilde. I would slap my copy of De Profundis in front of him and be like, “We’re gonna talk about this for five hours, and I’m gonna feed your belly, and I’m gonna get you drunk, and you’re just gonna tell me everything and answer all of my questions.”
You’re on a desert island and you have to survive on just one food: What is it?
I love a fresh coconut. You crack it and you have the milk, which is so delicious, but the flesh too. There’s that creamy part on the inside that you can scoop with a spoon, and then there’s the really hard shell part that, if you roast it with sugar, it gets caramelized and really nice and crunchy.
So, I think coconuts. I’d get fed up with them after a week, but I don’t know what food I wouldn’t get fed up about, truly. Ask me again tomorrow.
I’ve never thought about the flesh of a coconut until now, and it sounds weirdly sexy.
[Laughs.] Oh, think about it. Go buy a fresh coconut and think of me.