A little over a week after Queer Eye’s announcement that the Fab Five were filming season six of the Netflix series in Austin, the city started to shut down in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Food and wine expert Antoni Porowski decided to stay in Austin and started a new digital series on home cooking during the pandemic.
Porowski is sheltering-in-place with his boyfriend-turned-unofficial-cameraman Kevin Harrington (a New York advertising executive), who was visiting Austin for Porowski’s birthday. The couple briefly considered returning to New York, but decided the city “didn’t need another beating heart taking up resources.” They decided to foster a dog, Neon, from Austin Pets Alive! and hunkered down in Austin.
Porowski, who has the kind of genuine friendliness that must be necessary to help people make life changes on a reality television show, struggled with inactivity of staying inside. He admitted that he can’t sit still, explaining: “I brought a bunch of books with me that I thought I was going to read and I was thinking like, ‘Oh, I’m going to turn into the guy who’s going to read for six hours a day.’ That’s just not me. I’m very physical and I have to constantly be doing something.” Seeking to be of service, he came up with the idea to film a cooking show with whatever ingredients he had on hand to benefit nonprofit hunger relief organization Feeding America.
The idea to use simple ingredients came from a trip to the grocery store. After originally thinking Porowski would tackle complicated Julia Child’s recipes, he found many of the items he needed weren’t available at the store. Realizing that people around the country were experiencing the same thing, he began a home cooking show on his Instagram page called Quar Eye. The show was well-received, and picked up by Netflix to broadcast across its social channels, including Facebook and YouTube.
Now renamed Show Me What You’re Working With, Porowski takes submissions from around the country, where people share what’s in their fridges and helps them create a dish. The show is also punctuated by “Happy Hour” — a segment of positive news that often incorporates Neon and Harrington (“It’s all about Neon, let’s be honest,” said the doting Porowski). The show’s first episode helped a woman in Syracuse make something new for her husband, who is an ER physician. Porowski teased that episode two will feature Austin locals wanting to make use of a “fishy” ingredient.
Though the show will come out weekly, exactly when each episode will debut is a bit up in the air. Porowski, who freely admits he knows very little about the editing process, films the show on his iPhone, and sends it to a production team working remotely to turn it into the show. “It’s the wild wild west and we’re kind of figuring it out with every single episode,” he explained.
When Porowski’s not crafting recipes, he has been able to explore a few restaurants in Austin. Pulling up his PostMates and Uber Eats accounts, he rattled off Latin American restaurant Gloria’s (which was featured on Quar Eats), the Austin location of Dallas-based pizzeria Cane Rosso (“the Honey Bastard pizza and the crispy Brussels sprouts — oh my god”), local American restaurant Rosewood (“fantastic”), grain bowl chain Cava, Poke Austin, and, perhaps surprisingly, Chinese chain P.F. Chang’s. As a Canadian, he had never been to P.F. Chang’s and “wanted to experience what it was like,” he explained.
Moreover, after being stymied while grocery shopping, Porowski has spent time exploring Central Texas produce, using an app called Vinder that connects consumers to local farmers that would normally be supplying restaurants.
“I just love what they’re doing […] literal cowboy hat’s off to [Vinder founder Sam Lilly],” says Porowski. “I get to enjoy awesome fresh food and really get to enjoy what Austin has to offer and, and you know, anything that we can do I think to help the smaller businesses.”
Porowski was particularly taken with farm-fresh eggs from Coleto Creek Cattle Co. in Yorktown, Texas, which came with a note from the farmer’s daughter, who individually picked out the eggs and wrote about how much she loved the show. “It’s really cute to be able to, through through difficult times like this, actually like communicate and be in touch with these people. Even virtually,” said Porowski. “It makes everything so personal and it just makes me love Austin all the more. I mean, I genuinely freaking love it here.”