Queer Eye Star Antoni Porowski Divulges Details About His New Cooking Competition Series - Exclusive Interview

As the resident food and wine expert on "Queer Eye," Antoni Porowski knows his way around incredible cuisine. He also understands the importance of bringing together people with food, having worked his way up from busboy to manager while he was working at an eatery during his college years. Porowski told us in an exclusive interview that through this job, he also learned how to hone his interpersonal skills, which are clear when you see the way he connects with people on "Queer Eye" and his new cooking competition show, "Easy-Bake Battle."

The new series features talented home cooks facing off to create the easiest, fastest, and most delicious food. The contestants will also showcase the clever tricks that help them cheat their way to tasty meals, all for a chance to win up to $100,000. In the trailer, Porowski says, "I'm here to show you that good food doesn't have to be complicated or fancy and to celebrate the unsung heroes of the home kitchen." We also spoke to the host about what the most creative dish was on the show, whether there were any mishaps in the kitchen, and how his "Queer Eye" castmates would fare on the cooking competition series.

What viewers will see on Easy-Bake Battle

Can you tell me a bit about what people can expect to see on "Easy-Bake Battle"?

On "Queer Eye," we put a spotlight on these wonderful heroes and see them where they're at. There are definitely elements of that on "Easy-Bake" as well, where we get to learn about people through their food. These are all home cooks competing for $25,000 an episode up to $100,000. You get to follow their journey, and the ones who do win these challenges — spoiler alert, some of them do — you get to learn more about their personal lives and who they are and what's important to them, where they come from, that sort of thing, all while having crazy limitations in the kitchen and the ingenious hacks that they come up with.

It's like all of the best hacks that you get to see on TikTok and through Instagram Reels, but put into a show of how they actually apply this in their life with actual takeaways. It's not just the visual of watching them do the thing, but you actually get to learn how they accomplish these feats by only using an oven to create a multi-component meal or whatever the challenge is in such a short amount of time, all while being incredibly creative. I learned so much from them.

Were you familiar with an Easy Bake Oven before the show?

I was very familiar with an Easy Bake Oven. The moment I remember that really changed it for me was when they had a collab with Pizza Hut and I saw the crispy pepperoni and the gooey mozzarella cheese and the golden crust around the bread. I got very excited and asked my parents to get me one, and they refused because we already had an oven at home. I never got to have one as a kid, so I'm pretty much reliving my childhood dreams on a show that's on Netflix honoring the Easy-Bake oven.

The most creative dish on the series

I read that the show involves clever home cooks. What was the most creative dish that you saw while making the series?

There was one challenge — this one contestant who particularly blew my mind. Her name was Iman, and she's a Kurdish woman. She fled her place of birth when she was really young and emigrated to the U.S., and there was no documentation of the recipes of the things that she learned. This sounds like "Queer Eye," but it's a competition show, I assure you.

She had to remember these dishes that she made, and she never documented them. Her kids and her husband convinced her to go on the show, and she wants to show the world what Kurdish cuisine is. In the first challenge, it was an episode that was all about kids and how picky they are and how you have to sneak vegetables at any opportunity given. I also understood what my poor mother used to have to do when she was raising me, slathering Cheez Whiz on every damn vegetable so that I would even look at it the right way.

She made this crunch wrap that had so many spices, and biting into it, it felt like ... You know when you go over to someone's house and you try something and you're like, "Holy crap, this tastes like home"? She brought that with spices that she was familiar with. She cooked with such confidence and she used so many spices, but she did it with ease and so many hacks and made it something that a lot of people are going to want to replicate at home. It was actually a crunchy crunch wrap. It was perfection.

It sounds amazing. Being on a competition show can obviously be stressful. Were there any cooking mishaps that happened?

For the most part, it's almost as though most of them had done this before. I definitely felt like the stress of time was something that they've never had — literally a timer going off and me yelling, "10 minutes, 5 minutes, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. You're done. Take it easy." But other than that, they were all so adept. That's a testament to the fact of how confident they are. 

I love that these are home cooks. These are people who are making food for themselves, their significant others, their roommates, their dates, for their families. To be able to show the world that has just as much value as somebody who pursues food in a professional capacity, and that should be honored and that should be celebrated — it's super wonderful. I promise you, I did not have a single bite of something that was inedible.

Was there an undercooked potato every once in a while, a carrot that was a little too firm or a little too soft for my liking, or a lacking of salt on something that came out of a fryer? Sure. But all said and done, I was genuinely blown away.

Antoni Porowski admits two of his Queer Eye castmates wouldn't do well on his new show

Will any of your "Queer Eye" castmates make an appearance on the show?

Sadly, they do not. I might have Face-Timed Tan a couple of times for outfit and wardrobe advice here and there. We filmed during the holidays, so everybody was with their families.

If they were on the show competing, who do you think would be the first person to get eliminated?

It would be Karamo. I have a visual of him staring at the spice wall, and he would have no idea what to do with himself. Bless his heart. This isn't anything; he's quick to admit it as well. He does make food for his kids, but I think that he would be a little overwhelmed. I've seen JVN compete because we were on a guest episode of "Nailed It!" and I've seen how he panics under the pressure. The two of them would be out in an instant. But Tan and Bobby are so competitive that I feel like they would make it to the finish line.

The host's pet peeve at a restaurant and what ingredients he can't live without

I read that you worked in hospitality as a busboy, waiter, and manager. Do you think there are any misconceptions people have about the food industry?

It was such an important job that I had. I love that it was the opportunity of something I could do while I was studying. I was studying psych at the time and going to theater school when I was in New York and then working in restaurants during my off time. I love that there is the possibility of working up the ladder, to your point, of a busboy, to a runner, to a waiter, to a part-time or full-time manager. It really taught me how to deal with people.

It's less a misconception, but one of my pet peeves is going to a restaurant and having somebody I'm with be rude to wait-staff and not treating them like they're a human being. That irks me to my core. It's such an important job because it teaches you how to deal with people. It helps you hone in on interpersonal skills and when to say something and when to not say something. I have a lot of compassion and respect for literally anybody who works in the service industry, especially these days.

As an expert in food, is there one person you'd want to cook you dinner?

Because it's fall and it's starting to get nice and toasty, I would say Martha Stewart does make genuinely the best apple pie that anyone on this planet has ever tried. With fall coming along, I would love her to make me one of her famous apple pies with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

That sounds incredible right now. What's one ingredient you could never live without?

Can I name three?

Of course.

Good flake salt, lemons — the juice and the zest — and then parm. I love my parm because you can use the rind and you can throw it into a soup or a stew, and it helps give a nice salty flavor to literally anything. Then you scoop it out before serving once it's softened up. Also, my spice drawer — I love my spice drawer so much. It brings me so much joy. If I don't know what to make for dinner, sometimes I open it and I'm like, "Who have I neglected for the past few weeks? Who can I give a little love to?"

"Easy-Bake Battle" premieres on October 12 on Netflix.

This interview has been edited for clarity.