Like many gay boys, Antoni Porowski longed for an easy-bake oven that growing up denied him. Not so much because it was considered a toy for girls, he explains, but because his Polish-Canadian parents saw no point in having a miniature gadget they already had in their kitchen.
In his new cooking competition show, however strange eyeThe food and wine expert is surrounded by easy-bake ovens. The Netflix set Easy Bake Battle is littered with all makes and models of classic toys that first hit the market in the 1960s, but contestants use real adult kitchen appliances to create the kind of home cooking they would make for themselves and their own families. The idea is to put home cooks in the spotlight and show how, well, easy it can be to create delicious dishes from everyday ingredients even in an emergency.
Porovsky joined LGBTQ nation Earlier this week for a chat about Easy Bake Battlethe joys and challenges of home cooking and even the simple joys of Chili and Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
So, the show kind of surprised me. The title suggests a campy, almost understated style of cooking. Like… almost stoner snack cooking. But that’s not really what’s going on, is it?
I have to say there are a lot of stoner friendly snacks in some episodes!
I love very specific, understandable challenges. We tried to think of my dream co-judges, co-hosts who would come on every episode – like what their specialty was. For example my good friend Kat Kinsman who is obsessed with breakfast and brunch. Alyse Whitney loves the holidays.
Chef Alisa [Reynolds] has been touring with all sorts of great artists for a long time and she cooked on tour buses and in hotel rooms, so the first challenge for her episode was, “You literally have a coffee pot…” Which, by the way, you can poach a nice fillet of salmon in it, and They can cook pasta which came as a shock to me!
I love a little bit, like five percent extra crazy, but also something that people can relate to. Starring Chef Jacques Torres, who has kids of his own, doing something that involves kids being super picky and picking ingredients they hate and trying to figure out how to hide them in everything. Which made me think back to my own childhood. My parents put Cheez Whiz on everything just for me to literally eat any Vegetables.
Yes, I was surprised by the truly amazing looking dishes that emerge from these challenges.
I knew what I wanted out of the show – because it took years to work on it and I knew it was something I wanted to do as an EP. I wanted to know each and every step from start to finish, what it’s like create a show. And I knew I wanted to be home cooking.
When we tried to come up with a concept, I looked back strange eye and I thought about what really works strange eye. It was a strong, existing, nostalgic IP. It was something people remembered. And with Easy-Bake, I feel like it is the the most iconic American toy, and while we don’t actually use an easy-bake oven because I feel like we’d be so limited as to what we could create with that red lightbulb, I wanted to bring that vibe to the show, where it is it was all about lightness.
Ok, let’s talk easy-bake ovens. If people haven’t gotten the memo yet, no real easy-bake ovens were damaged in the making of this show. Do you want to try to justify this decision?
It would be hard! But they are really good for browning nuts. And in the episode of Jacques Torres, he’s known for having the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, and he made his famous chocolate chip cookies there, and it was really damn good. Slightly raw in the middle, crispy on the edge. I was impressed!
Do you have any recipes of your own that you think you could make in an easy-bake oven?
We actually played around with them a bit on set. I’ve wanted to have all of the different iterations of the Easy-Bake Oven since…the 50’s, I think it started? And a lot has changed. But the lightbulb stayed the same! We browned pine nuts. Pine nuts are one of the things I always burn when they’re on the stove. But you stick them on the little thing and that brings nuts for a salad for four to six people, no problem.
Easy-Bake Ovens almost feel like they have that special meaning for gay guys of a certain age. As if they were a toy that many of us coveted but were denied as children. Does that sound true to you?
I mean, I was denied, but that was because my parents said, “Why should we buy you a smaller plastic version of the thing that’s already in the kitchen?” That was my upbringing, with very Polish parents.
Story of my life: I always think I’m the only one going through what I’m going through, but maybe it’s actually an LGBTQI+ community thing. Maybe many others feel the same way! I joked that the reason I did the show is to relive my unfulfilled childhood wish of owning an easy-bake oven.
You’re the second person to mention this and it’s really very interesting. I want to take a deep dive and find out what’s at the heart of it all.
There was a disposable leash on it I think Six feet under a million years ago about the gay brother melting his sister’s easy-bake oven or something.
Oh wait, are you saying that a lot of gay boys were denied an easy-bake oven because it was considered a girl’s toy?
Oh, that’s interesting. It’s so funny to me. Although I grew up in a very matriarchal household and my mother was the one who prepared the food and she is definitely the most talented cook in the family, so is my father – like breakfast is his thing. If it was the grill – I know it’s stereotypical, but he was like, “I’m going to grill!” As I got older, I didn’t feel like I was swimming against the current. Cooking has fascinated me so much and I’ve always loved being in a kitchen. Maybe I just took it for granted.
I feel like people come to cook-off shows for entertainment rather than real cooking tips. But you feel like this show is actually showing people little things they can actually do at home.
Hacks were very important. It was something I really wanted to focus on. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we had an overwhelming amount of moms just kicking everyone else’s butt. They’ve been doing this for literally ages. You have children with different dietary restrictions who prepare multiple meals at different times of the day.
And sure, some of the attendees are influencers or micro-influencers themselves, and I wanted to support anyone who is passionate about food. But some of these moms always wanted to be chefs.
You have someone like Giselle, where her family said, “You’re going to be a mother and a wife and you’re going to have kids.” So she has to live her dream [on the show], shows us these hacks that aren’t gimmicks. They were really smart and things born out of necessity rather than just trying to create the next butterboard trend. Have you seen the butter board?
Yes. I do not get it.
Neither do I! And I honestly don’t think we need that. It is in order. It will pass.
So were there any dishes on your show that inspired you to use a particular flavor combination or shortcut or something like that?
Total. First of all – and everyone I know who’s from the Midwest has been doing it for a very long time – I didn’t know that you could microwave a raw potato with a wet paper towel when it was fully cooked through. It’s such a quick way to make either donuts or mashed potatoes or whatever you want to do. I thought that was genius!
I’m notoriously terrible at desserts. I’m savory over sweet, all the way. Baking is far too calculated and too patient for me. And the amount of layered, insignificant desserts where it’s like you’re making a cookie and it looks crappy? Crumble it up, make some flavored whipped cream, and just layer it up with some stuff. It’s really cute, put it in a small jar!
Again, simple hacks that come out of necessity, this is still playful but still looks very appealing and makes you want to try it. I definitely paid attention to a lot of dessert situations.
I picked up a lot of snack foods that were crumbled onto things and used as breading. I mean, I saw a bag of Cheetos in a clip that reminded me of my greatest kitchen innovation of all time: Frito Pie, but instead of Fritos, it’s made with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Throughts?
I wouldn’t hate that! I love Frito cakes, and my favorite kind of chips is actually Fritos because I’m a corn-over-potato team because corn has that extra sweetness. But yeah, I wouldn’t mind some Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
With Iman in this episode, she finished before anyone else and very nonchalantly pops open a bag of Costco-sized Cheetos. And she’s like this elegant Kurdish mom who uses all those spices that nobody on set has touched yet. She says, “This is what I do when I’m waiting for my kids to come home and I have a moment to myself!” Squeezes some fresh lime, chops in some avocado.
I literally did a segment yesterday where they asked me to recreate it and I ended up eating half the bowl. It’s something so crappy and you add two fresh elements and suddenly it feels a little more refined! You forget you’re eating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos with a spoon!
Last question: what should I eat tonight?
You seem busy and it’s 2pm so it would take a little long to start with a beef or chicken stew. But chili is a classic dump-and-stir. I often refer to chili because it’s one of my favorite things, and mashing up fritos or tortilla chips into chili… In my first book, there’s a Guinness, Dark Chocolate, Chipotle in Adobo – they’re 99 cents, they’re available everywhere – some black beans, turkey and some chilli powder. It’s that easy. So good with some apple cider vinegar at the end. It’s tangy, it’s sweet, it freezes well. The leftovers are delicious.
Did I get it cold from the fridge? Yes, and it still tastes really good. Tomorrow morning you have leftovers and can fry an egg and make your own chilaquiles situation. Chili is so good!