The Stunning Transformation Of Antoni Porowski

Antoni Porowski is best known as the resident food expert on the Netflix series "Queer Eye." On the show, Porowski and four other men transform peoples' lives — from their eating habits to their confidence. The show's success led Porowski to become the best-selling author of "Antoni in The Kitchen" and "Antoni: Let's Do Dinner."

Born to Polish parents in Montreal, Canada, food was an integral part of the Porowski household. And while Porowski wound up working in the restaurant industry as a waiter and manager, he had hopes of becoming an actor (via USA Today). A chance encounter with a former "Queer Eye for The Straight Guy" cast member got him a job on "Queer Eye" as the food expert.

"Of all of the passions I've pursued in my life, cooking was the only one that was never in a professional capacity," he told USA Today, adding, "But cooking has always been something that was very important in my home growing up. ... I've always had a very strong emotional tie to it." Porowski is a success both in and out of the kitchen. Here's a closer look at how he's transformed over the years.

He moved to the United States at a young age

Antoni Porowski may have gained recognition in the states, but he was born in Canada and moved to West Virginia at a young age (via CBC). In a 2018 appearance on "Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness," Porowski shared that he's a first-generation Polish Canadian. He was the first of his family to be born outside of Europe. The "Queer Eye" star said he faced xenophobia while attending high school in West Virginia.

"One thing that really stuck with me, that was really hurtful at the time, was they referred to me as an alien, which is actually a technical term on my green card and says 'alien,' but they used it in a way that there was just something not right about it," he told Van Ness. He was also made fun of for his lunches, often homemade Polish hunter stew and cabbage rolls. He revealed that he considered changing his Polish name when he was getting into acting. But as he explained on the "Tamron Hall Show" in 2021, he eventually learned to embrace his name when he moved back to Montreal in college and discovered that "being Polish is pretty cool."

He suffered from anxiety as a teen

Antoni Porowski struggled with anxiety growing up. He often had panic attacks, as he shared in a video for the Child Mind Institute's #MyYoungerSelf campaign in 2019. Speaking to the camera, Porowski said he used to see his anxiety as a weakness, adding, "I was really ashamed of the fact that I was anxious." If he could go back in time, he said he would tell younger Porowski to ask for help and seek therapy sooner. As he told GQ, he began seeing a therapist at the age of 17.

In that same interview with GQ, Porowski admitted that he still has anxiety but has learned to use it as a strength rather than a weakness and wants to help others in a similar situation. "I'm very afraid in life, of everything, the small things, the big things," he shared, adding, "But the one thing that I've always prided myself on is the fact that I really get off on fear," which he says has helped him get to where he is today.

He was ashamed of 'being fluid' when he was younger

Antoni Porowski struggled to understand and define his sexual identity as a teen and adult. In a 2019 interview with the Associated Press, Porowski said he considers himself a fluid person, something he knew from a young age — but with that realization came shame. "I think I did certainly have a bit of shame being fluid when I was growing up because I didn't know too many people who I could relate to," he told the publication.

Porowski told Gay Times in 2018 that he's never labeled his sexual identity and has struggled with terms like bisexuality. "I remember in my early twenties I was like, 'But bisexual means I can only like girls and guys, what if I like something else?'" he told the mag, adding, "Maybe it's just my rebellious nature. I'm me, I'm Antoni, and I'm all these things." During the interview, Porowski proclaimed, "Today I'm gay, I'm in a gay relationship, and that's where I am. That's good enough for me."

He worked in restaurants as he pursued an acting career

It may come as a surprise but "Queer Eye" food expert Antoni Porowski didn't receive any formal culinary training. Most of his restaurant days in the early years revolved around waiting tables while he pursued an acting career in New York City. 

In an interview with Concordia University, his alma mater, which he graduated from before moving to New York City, Porowski shared a glimpse into his first restaurant job at Meditteraneo, which ultimately became Buonanotte, and how it made him grow as a person. "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," he said. "Restaurants have taught me a good work ethic, I like to think."

Porowski told Variety that his childhood dream was to become an actor, which he wrote in his grade school yearbook years ago — well, that and becoming a surgeon. He went on to study something completely different (psychology) at Concordia, but pivoted back to his acting dream and moved to New York City to pursue theater.

He got a leg up from a former Queer Eye for The Straight Guy cast member

Antoni Porowski was working as a waiter when he was plucked from obscurity by a former "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" star. Ted Allen, the food and wine expert from "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," which inspired "Queer Eye," took Porowski under his wing after he met him at a book signing around 2012. Soon after, he hired Porowski to be his personal assistant and cook for him and his husband. Porowski wowed the pair with his delicious cuisine and passion for cooking, Allen told Vanity Fair in 2018. 

Allen encouraged Porowski to audition for the reboot and connected him with the show's creator, David Collins.  "I texted Antoni's information and a link to his Web site to David, and his response was, 'Yowza, handsome!'" Porowski was chosen for the show after completing a number of chemistry tests, Allen explained.

When speaking with Entertainment Weekly in 2018, Porowski confessed that he never thought he'd take Allen's former job when he started working for him, adding, "That was never part of my plan. I had other plans and ... it's that whole thing of, life is what happens when you're making plans."

Antoni Porowski initially thought of Queer Eye as an 'in-between' job

Antoni Porowski dreamed of being a serious actor but when the opportunity of a lifetime came knocking in the form of Netflix's "Queer Eye," he said yes. At that point in time, Porowski had spent most of his adult life working in the restaurant industry and was getting no break on the acting front. "I was a waiter for 10-plus years, and it was an in-between — something that I could do while taking classes and going to auditions, like so many actors do," he shared with Elle in 2021.

With "Queer Eye" came endorsements, book deals, millions of Instagram followers, public speaking tours, and more. "That was a total switch of how the energy worked in my life. People suddenly started caring," he told GQ. When "Queer Eye" premiered, Porowski went through a "weird phase," as he admitted to Variety. He continued, saying, 'When 'Queer Eye' came out where I was like, 'I'm not going to enjoy myself. I'm just going to work and hustle. I'm going to do every single endorsement.'" However, this led to exhaustion, and he learned to be choosier with what he said yes to from then on.

The Fab Five helped him feel comfortable in his skin and sexuality

Netflix's "Queer Eye" not only gave Antoni Porowski a taste of the limelight, but it also transformed him as a person. He grew to be more confident, he told GQ in 2019. And his cast members — Jonathan Van Ness, Karamo Brown, Tan France, and Bobby Berk — had everything to do with that. They helped Porowski "get to a place where [he's] a lot more comfortable in my skin," he told GQ. They also helped him become more comfortable with his sexuality. He never was a fan of public displays of affection with his past boyfriends and girlfriends, but he felt like he could be open with the people closest to him, including the Fab Five, and is often seen on the show hugging his cast members and holding hands. "I never thought I would be that person. With all of them, there's a level of comfortability that I've gained," he told the publication.

He now also uses the term "queer" with pride. As he told Gay Times, "When I first started telling people about the show, I would embarrassingly catch myself whispering 'Queer' as though ... I don't know if I was embarrassed or I had some kind of a shame, but it still felt taboo from childhood."

He's overcome criticism over his lack of culinary training

Antoni Porowski may not have received culinary training, but what he lacks in training, he well makes up for in the real world. As the resident food expert on "Queer Eye," Porowski felt a little insecure about his role at first. As he told Variety, "I'm a home cook, and that's something that I used to feel a bit of shame for." It didn't help that he had received criticism from social media and publications like Vulture soon after the first season premiered in 2018.

In the inaugural episode, Porowski teaches the subject how to incorporate guacamole with Greek yogurt. "That was the only thing that made it in the episode," he told Variety, adding, "And then I became the guac guy." Throughout later seasons, Porowski confessed that he tried to create more complex dishes to show he had more in him.

Luckily, Porowski had a built-in support system with the other Fab Five cast members, telling Elle, "We can have conversations and know that it's a safe space because we get to work together, but we also get to live all of the outside stuff that's going on as a team."

Food is his love language

Ask Antoni Porowski where to find him at any party and he'll tell you the kitchen. "My comfort zone is in a kitchen," he told Elle. "And if I'm at someone's house and I'm not going to be cooking ... I love doing the dishes at the end." He went on to share with the outlet that food is how he shows his love for someone, adding, "That, for me, has been the foundation of how I express gratitude for anybody around me."

This is one of the reasons Porowski is grateful for his role as the resident food expert on "Queer Eye." In 2019, he told USA Today that he got the job "because [he] was open to all of the opportunities that [he] was given." And while he had wanted to become an actor, and even an art curator and therapist, he loves what he does. "I've been handed a golden nugget of an opportunity where I actually get to basically impact someone's life and show them a different way of going about things," he told the outlet.

Antoni Porowski found love

Antoni Porowski has plenty of love to share — in and out of the kitchen. Porowski and his advertiser boyfriend Kevin Harrington were first linked in 2019 when they attended a Halloween party dressed as Blockbuster zombies. Then in 2020, Harrington posted a message on Instagram wishing Porowski a happy birthday. In an interview with People in 2022, Porowski shared that their relationship strengthened quickly during the pandemic when a trip to Austin turned into something much more serious.

"It came to a shutdown in New York — there was no toilet paper — and we decided to stay in Austin and fostered a dog," Porowski told the outlet. "We went from being in a relationship and each having our own apartments and not having a dog, to living in the same place with a dog."  Of their relationship, Porowski said that although their relationship ramped up quickly, he wasn't complaining. "When something is stable and really good — and you communicate a lot, and you check in with each other and with your own therapist about it — I feel like that's kind of the key," he revealed.

From a first-generation Canadian to a waiter in New York with dreams of becoming an actor to finally a successful TV personality, cook, author, and more, Porowski has truly transformed over the years and has taken every opportunity to grow and succeed in the industry.