Within three minutes of meeting Antoni Porowski I know his favorite song from the new Taylor Swift album. It's "Death By a Thousand Cuts," which, he explains wistfully, is about a relationship that you just can't get over, even months after it's done. He puts it on as soon as we arrive in his apartment—an appropriate soundtrack, as I'm here to observe his knife skills.
As I watch some heirloom tomatoes suffer the same fate as Taylor Swift's heart, I take in the kitchen. There's the requisite white marble (celebrities, I think, are banned from installing any other surface). There's the fancy Breville espresso maker (ditto). Two beautiful copper pots from Paris sit on the luxurious gas stove, and the enviably large stainless steel fridge is packed with Oatly. ("Don't think I didn't email them about how to get a wholesale price thanks to the amount of this I consume," Porowski says. "I can't wait until we find out it's bad for us.")
The actor, chef, and cookbook author is sweet to guests, exacting with carrots.
Despite the luxury of all of the finishes, Porowski doesn't actually do much luxuriating in this space. In fact, he's barely there at all. Porowski is constantly on the road filming Queer Eye, doing the insane press junkets Netflix seems to put these guys through, and, now, trotting around the country on his first book tour. (Antoni in the Kitchen, the cookbook Porowski wrote with Epicurious contributor Mindy Fox, is out today.)
"I used to cook so much more at home because I was at home, and I had a standard ten-to-seven job," Porowski tells me. "I would go home and I would cook for my boyfriend at the time. We had that ritual, that tradition. Now, cooking in my own kitchen and sleeping in my own bed are actually the biggest luxury. It is something that I miss so much. I'm super grateful for the life that I have now, but at the same time, I'm never really home. Because when you're traveling, you're in hotels, you don't really get to cook. I get to do it on the show, but at the same time, it's a show. It's different than the comfort of my own home, lighting candles, and yeah, being sloppy and not worrying about having a messy T-shirt."
For the book, he struggled at first to figure out what the concept would be: Should he be a shrewd businessperson and cater to his demographic of 18- to 35-year-old women? Should it be a How to Cook Everything-style collection of essentials? Should it be a book for broke college students? Eventually he settled on a culinary autobiography, combining recipes from his Polish heritage with recipes from the show and—pure and simple—the things he likes to cook.
Such as those tomatoes. They're part of his favorite recipe in the book, the grilled peach and tomato salad. Porowski has been criticized for his cooking's simplicity, which on the show can veer into the ridiculous (the iconic sliced grapefruit and avocado salad from season one being Exhibit A). But as I scrutinize his slicing, it becomes clear that he's good with a knife and that the kitchen is his comfort zone. He drizzles olive oil with precision. He rolls basil leaves in tight curls and chiffonades them quickly and beautifully, without looking down. He insists I taste his favorite dates, which he hands to me straight from the freezer, where they've morphed into something like a hard candy with a creamy center. He does all this with the same energy he exudes when talking about Taylor Swift—a high-school-drama-kid emotiveness that teeters on self-mockery.
Food is "such a wonderful tool for remembering the things that really matter in life, the things that we can actually be happy and grateful about," Porowski says at some point. But I'm here to talk about his kitchen, so I pivot the conversation to be about his favorite tools (see below). And even though we're now just talking about pots and bowls and mortar and pestles, I still feel some of his kitchen optimism rubbing off on me.
A Copper Pot
Those copper pots he has out aren't just for show: "During my first trip to Paris as an adult, I went by E.Dehillerin, which is a famous store that cooks go to. They have copper cookware, but not the fancy but phony stuff that's ornamented with little brass acorns. It's really solid stuff. I have this pot that weighs like 30 pounds that I use all the time—it's probably the kitchen tool I've had the longest. I actually even boil water in it just because, even though it takes longer, it just makes me really happy. But it cooks so evenly, and I can make a hollandaise or a mac-and-cheese base in the pot and it always comes out perfectly."
All-Clad Mixing Bowls
Porowski thinks your mixing bowls are worth upgrading. "I used Ikea mixing bowls for forever," he says. "But then when I got all fancy, I bought the All-Clad version. They come in all different sizes, but the thing that really sets them apart is that they have a curved handle that you can actually put your hand under, and it allows you to hold it and tilt it to the side if you're whisking eggs or mixing just about anything. It's such a smart, ergonomic little hack. I feel like every bowl should have them, and I think they're the only brand that makes them that way. It's such an essential tool that I think it's worth it to invest in a little more. You can use them for everything from making salads to even tossing pasta with sauce, or even as a double boiler."
Mortar & Pestle
Porowski recently learned to love a mortar and pestle from a certain proponent of salt, fat, acid, and heat: "I used to make pesto in a food processor, but then when I saw Samin Nosrat talk about how important it was to use a mortar and pestle, I started doing that.
I was doing a For Your Consideration panel for the Emmys with her and she did a pesto demo with me. She talked about how when you do it with the mortar and pestle, the pesto stays brighter and tastes a lot better. She explained the layering of the different ingredients as you're making it. I just thought, Wow, I used to just throw everything into a food processor and pulse it. I think it's important every once in a while to make something and really appreciate the process. I know it's not always possible. Sometimes you're tired. You come home from work and you want to whip something up really quickly. But if it's a Sunday afternoon, there's no excuse. You should have that moment in the kitchen."
The best part? His favorite one is a shockingly chic-looking inexpensive one from Ikea.
"I keep my Boos block out all the time," Porowski says. "I oil it up and it just sits here all the time. If I have people over I set up a cheese and charcuterie board right on here so that while I'm cooking people can stand in the kitchen and enjoy food. And I use it for utilitarian reasons like cutting chicken. Oversized cutting boards are multi-purpose and perfect."
"I actually collect knives. I'm a minimalist with certain things, but with knives, I'm definitely a hoarder." The knife in Porowski's collection that he chooses to bring out while I'm there is a favorite: the Shun 6-inch santoku knife. "People have a debate about whether you want a chef's knife or a santoku. If your knife isn't sharp as hell, you should use a serrated knife for cutting tomatoes, but I love using this super-sharp Santoku because the tomatoes don't cling to it."
SMEG Citrus Juicer
Porowski considers an electric juicer an essential, because he considers citrus juice an essential. "Every Airbnb I've ever stayed in in Europe, they won't have good pots or pans or anything, but they all have an electric citrus juicer." His is from the chic Italian brand SMEG.
And, of course, check out Antoni's cookbook:
Originally Appeared on Epicurious