Well, well, well. The Gorton’s fisherman is looking good lately.
Fans of fish sticks and smoldering bedroom-eyes: you may want to sit down for this. Antoni Porowski, resident food expert on the Emmy-winning Netflix hit Queer Eye, is now making over meals for Gloucester, Massachusetts-based Gorton’s seafood. Porowski, recently named “Sexiest Reality Star” by People magazine, puts a (not-too-shabby) young face to the 170-year-old brand, and he’s been charged with creating cheffed-up recipes that turn Gorton’s products into #relevant #edible #content for Generation Instagram. (Think: fish kebabs with herbed lemon tahini sauce, and Buffalo-style fish sliders with blue cheese celery slaw.)
On one hand, the partnership between Porowski and Gorton’s sounded a little left-field. On the other, we couldn’t resist querying the Montreal-born Queer Eye star about his fondness for North Shore-rooted frozen fish sticks, among other New England seafood-related hot topics.
Have you spent much time in Boston? Have any favorite restaurants here?
I did as a kid. We would go there often with my parents. But it’s been such a long time, I feel like all my references are off. So I’ve been looking up restaurants. There’s a chance that I may be there in January, and I always love to come up with a list of restaurants to get excited about. One of them is Tasting Counter. Sarma also sounds really cool, and Alden & Harlow looks really interesting. I also love the idea of Bar Lyon. That looks like a really good French restaurant. I’m always down for a really good brasserie; no matter what city I’m in, when done right, that’s always my favorite for late-night dining.
Why’d you decide to work with Gorton’s?
Anybody who knows me knows I’m a sentimental, nostalgic person. When I was a kid, my parents used to travel a lot and there was a nanny who would take care of us. God love her, she was good at a lot of things—but she was not good at making Polish food. So when they were out of town, the snack I would have is Gorton’s fish sticks—they were a lot smaller back then—with loads of ketchup. So I have all these feelings around it: I got to stay up a little later, I got to watch whatever I wanted, I got to be a little troublemaker. It was my treat. Also, they’re an iconic brand. But while they are steeped in tradition and Americana, I do love what they’re about right now: 100-percent whole fillet of wild-caught Alaskan pollock. People are a lot more aware of what they put into their bodies these days, looking at sustainable options, and being more responsible with all our food choices. I like that they’ve stayed true to themselves while adapting to modern times. With social media and everything else, people are a lot smarter about food than they were before.
I know you try to make cooking approachable to people. Do you think freezer foods like Gorton’s get a bad rap?
I don’t know whether it gets a bad rap. I think there’s a time for fresh fish whenever you can have it. But not everyone lives in a coastal city. Not everyone has time to plan. In a perfect world, we would all go to the grocery store and shop like Europeans—buy whatever we need for that day and then prepare it. But when you’re buying fresh fish, you have to consume it that day—if not, the second day. And for most people in my life, that’s just not realistic. I think it’s about adapting and being realistic. If I teach somebody how to make something that’s too complicated, that’s not going to be sustainable. They’re not going to make it again. So why not take something that’s readily available at almost every single grocery store in the country, and teach people how to reinvent it?
And I’m sure Gorton’s doesn’t mind that it’s coming from one of People‘s “Sexiest.”
The most uncomfortable award I’ve ever received! Do I say thank you? I really don’t know how to take that one on. I still haven’t figured it out.
The Gorton’s fisherman is kind of a zaddy, though, right?
He isn’t not! I wanted to play with that with my permanent post [on Instagram]. I think there’s humor in everything. I appreciate that they have a sense of humor. They take the way that they produce their fish sticks very seriously. Sustainability is important, definitely. But at the end of the day, we can’t be too precious about things.
Time for a lightning round. Lobster rolls: warm with butter or cold with mayo?
I love a warm-butter lobster roll. When I’m in Watch Hill, Rhode Island over the summer—my best friend has a home there—that’s how I love to have them. Loads of butter, loads of chives, and the bun needs to be toasted. And in a perfect world, it would only be the knuckle and claw meat—because it’s so much more tender than the tail.
What’s the key to the perfect clam chowder?
I don’t like it when there’s too much flour, when it’s too thick. I love it when there’s a substantial amount of bacon. It should be thick with potato, clams, and bacon, but the broth itself should be thin enough. Too much flour is my pet peeve.
Red wine with fish: Still sacrilege, or officially an outdated prohibition?
It’s about whatever makes you happy! Do I understand ketchup on hot dogs? No. But if that’s what makes someone happy, power to them. If you’re having fish—say, halibut with a demi-glace or some kind of bone broth situation, I think a lovely Burgundy or Pinot noir would pair really well with that. It’s good to be open-minded. Learn the rules, and then break them. That applies to food and wine alike.
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