“I live in New York—I always smile a little bit when I say that, because I’m never really here. Recently I’ve been in Philly, filming the next season of Queer Eye, and I was just in Vermont with my family. My parents traveled a lot when I was growing up, and they always came back with food. Like, when they went to Morocco, they came back with a massive smoked fish wrapped in a carpet. It helped shape my point of view that food should be this diverse, beautiful thing. Food was always something I loved, but I didn’t go to school for it. I actually studied psychology—I wanted to be an actor, and my parents really wanted me to go into medicine, so that was the happy medium. After I graduated, I moved to New York to pursue acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. I was a waiter for a very long time, and then was a personal assistant for for Ted Allen, the original food and wine guy on Queer Eye. Even when I worked for Ted, food wasn’t something I fantasized about pursuing—I’m not classically trained, and it was never part of the master plan.
When Queer Eye came about, it was uncomfortable at first. Food was fun, but it was intimate—I was definitely very self-conscious. With acting you have a script, you prepare. With this, we get a very short profile that includes a little bit of background and things like dietary restrictions, and that’s it. Then we go in, and looking through the fridge and the pantry I can very quickly see the type of lifestyle the person leads. While I have assumptions and opinions, I can’t just tell the person to eat healthier—it’s actually none of my business. Unless they bring up that they’re willing to, it’s not going to make a difference. It helps to approach it from a place of empathy. And I’m trying to contribute meaningfully to this person’s life in such a short amount of time. In the first season, I actually made three recipes for each person, not understanding that everything gets compressed to two-minute segments. Seeing the final edit was a reminder to keep it simple.
I always tell myself that when we’re filming I’m just going to focus on the show, but I’m not good with free time. When I was in Kansas City, I was working on my cookbook. We would shoot for 10 hours, and then a helper and I would test out two to three recipes each. When my editor told me they wanted it to include 100 recipes, in my mind I was freaking out—I cook a lot by handfuls, and I had never measured anything or written a single thing down. The way I ended up approaching it was kind of from a biographical standpoint, of food I ate in different stages of my life, plus recipes that didn’t make it into the show. That comes out September 9th. My restaurant, The Village Den, has also been open for about eight months. I come up with the seasonal menu, and I try to be as involved as I possibly can when I’m here. I went in the other day and ended up spending a few hours cleaning dishes. It was really nice.
Two years ago I did not have a routine—I washed my face with body wash, wore deodorant, and brushed my teeth. As a result of the show and being on camera a lot, and being in my mid-30s, I’ve started paying attention to it. I have a very extensive skin regimen now, but what’s more important than the actual products is having five minutes with myself. A big goal of mine going forward is to be more comfortable being alone—at the end of the day, it’s very difficult for me. I always find myself calling a friend and trying to invite someone over. I’m learning to go to the movies or take a walk with some music, but going to a restaurant alone is still hard.
You know the feeling of wearing sweatpants? That’s how I feel if I don’t start my day with a shower. I keep an Aveda cleanser in a massive bottle there, and I use it with a Clarisonic. When I travel, I actually use Susanne Kaufmann or Tata Harper, because they’re smaller. Everything is very herbaceous, which I really love. The Tata Harper is a little grainy, so it exfoliates, but it’s not too intense. I hate things that make my skin tingle. For moisturizer, I need one that’s not oily, because I’m naturally so oily—I just blotted my face a second ago. I also need moisturizers to seal well for flights. I’ve destroyed many bags from things exploding. I either put on the Tom Ford Daily Moisturizer or Dr. Colbert’s, and then I put on La Prairie SPF. SPF is very important! It is! When I was 18 or 20, I went through a phase of putting olive oil on my skin to tan because it’s what my Greek friend did. I think that’s possibly the worst thing you can do! I’m definitely a lot more careful now.
You know the feeling of wearing sweatpants? That’s how I feel if I don’t start my day with a shower.
Then I go to the gym, and I take a little mini mist from Mario Badescu. I have a blue one that’s chamomile lavender, and it’s very relaxing. I also use a Fellow Barber salty mist, which you’re supposed to use after shaving. It tightens my skin and makes me feel like I just got out of the ocean, which is my favorite mood. My friend who’s very into skincare got me boxes of this one mask when were filming in Tokyo—I can’t say the name, but it’s my favorite. Oh, yeah! The new season of Queer Eye was filmed in Tokyo. We got translators and guides—the whole thing.
I have to take a shower when I get home to cleanse off the day and the city and the sweat. After I take a shower, I light a candle. Which candle? I thought you’d never ask! Literally every single candle Byredo produces is fantastic—there isn’t one that I don’t like. If I want to go cleaner and simpler, I go Diptyque. If I’m feeling very fancy, I like to use the Christian Dior candles in the nice porcelain cups, or a church scent from Frederic Malle. I light my candle, I have my music playing—a little jazz, or the really emotional Oasis love songs, or Richard Ashcroft if I’m feeling very existential on a Sunday. Recently it’s Maggie Rogers, Troye Sivan, Billie Eilish… though Billie makes me a little aggressive before I go to sleep and I end up having weird nightmares, so maybe not. Then I start my nighttime routine!
This La Prairie isn’t technically a toner, but it works like one. It’s in a beautiful big bottle, and makes me feel like a boss. I dab some of that all over my face, then I put on La Prairie Huile Seche, the dry oil. Recently I’ve been applying it with just two fingers, because I realized that so much product gets wasted when I use my whole hand, and my hands end up so much more moisturized than they ever need to be. Then I put on Tata Harper Undereye Cream, which has a little bit of a glow and makes me feel chic as fuck. I use La Prairie Caviar Luxe on the rest of my face, which leaves this really nice film. Then I make a cup of either African Nectar or Chamomile Mighty Leaf tea to calm me down. I do my melatonin gummies—you’ll want to take more than two, but respect the label. Then I brush my teeth with Marvis whitening toothpaste in the silver tube, and by the time I go back into my room, the melatonin has started to kick in. In my room, another candle is lit. It’s a Maxfield and Byredo collaboration, and it tells me it’s time to go to sleep. God, sometimes I can’t believe how I sound when I speak… it is what it is.
I started using it in my hair, and after a couple weeks, my roommate noticed my head smelled like rotting chicken carcass.
Right now my aesthetic is ‘celebrity walking through the airport in the ‘90s’—specifically Brad Pitt, when he had cargo pants and long hair. Ouai has this awesome cream that’s not too scented or oily, and I put it through my hair to control the little whispies that aren’t long enough to hide behind my ear. I don’t like putting things in my hair that are too perfumed, because it doesn’t usually smell good over time. I only wash my hair every 10 days to two weeks with shampoo because it gets poofy—usually I just use hot water. Oh, here’s a thing: don’t make your own ocean water salt spray! I was in the Rockaways with some friends, and I decided to put ocean water in a bottle and take it home. I started using it in my hair, and after a couple weeks, my roommate noticed my head smelled like rotting chicken carcass. I didn’t realize that ocean water goes bad! Now I’m back to purchasing salt sprays, because I figure brands know how to do it the right way. Balmain makes a really good one that’s not too salty that I take to the gym, and Bumble and Bumble makes a nice one too.
I literally have eight varieties of Olly gummies, which I’ve been using for so long—my gateway Olly was Sleep, which is the melatonin. I’m a very bad flyer, and in my 20s I just smoked a lot of pot—that would usually help. [Laughs] Now, if I have the Restful Sleep gummies with chamomile tea, it’s perfect. I take those at night, and I take my probiotic and prebiotic in the morning to get me going. I usually do that right before a workout. Then, I divide the rest between morning and night.
FRAGRANCE + BODY
I have two go-to fragrances, and they’re both Byredo. One is Rodeo, and it’s only available at the Wooster boutique. Then the other one is La Selle, which is French for saddle. But my favorite Byredo scent is Sundazed, which I’m wearing right now. Get this: top notes are mandarin, clementine, and lemon, which makes me think of Acqua di Parma. That’s what my father wore when I was growing up. Then, there’s a bit of neroli, a bit of jasmine, musk, and cotton candy!
One day I want to be like Tom Ford and take multiple baths a day. Until then, I try to do it as often as I can. Goop has this awesome bath salt that has valerian in it, and that calms me down at night. In the shower, I have Grown Alchemist body wash and Dove bar soap. That bar is so moisturizing, right? It’s like a dollar, and it’s good. I also have a lot of hotel soap samples, because I love free shit. It’s everything from C.O. Bigelow to Acqua di Parma. I use Byredo Suede hand soap at home, and we have Vetyver at Village Den. The last thing I do before I go to sleep is slather my body in lotion. I use Bal d'Afrique Body Cream, and I put it everywhere. You have to run around naked for a little bit for it to really dry and absorb, otherwise your sheets end up smelling. You’re welcome for that visual!”
—as told to ITG
Antoni Porowski photographed by Tom Newton at the High Line Hotel in New York on July 8, 2019.