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CEC event allows students to cook alongside Antoni Porowski over Zoom

Antoni Porowski, a star of the Emmy Award-winning series “Queer Eye”, cooked his take on spaghetti with UCLA students through Zoom on Saturday. (Sakshi Joglekar/Daily Bruin)

By Anushka Chakrabarti

May 11, 2020 6:06 pm

UCLA students cooked spaghetti alongside a star of the Emmy Award-winning series “Queer Eye” through Zoom on Saturday.

UCLA’s Campus Events Commission invited Antoni Porowski, known for his role in the Netflix series “Queer Eye,” to lead an online cookalong of his easy spaghetti recipe open to UCLA students. Porowski also answered questions throughout the cookalong about his experiences in college and more recently during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Queer Eye” stars five men who use their expertise in different sectors of lifestyle and beauty to help improve the lifestyles of the person or people featured in each episode. On the show, Porowski, a self-taught cook, uses his cooking knowledge to promote healthy eating.

On the cookalong, hosted over the videoconferencing tool Zoom, Porowski said he used frozen peas as an inexpensive source of protein while he was in college. He also said Trader Joe’s canned tuna in oil was a cheap and healthy meal option for him.

He added that frozen dinners do not give him energy, and encouraged students to use fresh produce in their meals.

Porowski said he changed his major multiple times while in college. He told students as long as they were involved in something, there would be a path for them to pursue after school.

He also talked about the effects of quarantine on his mental health. Porowski said there is a tricky balance between overwhelming oneself with the news and staying educated on current events.

The event was one of CEC’s biggest audience engagements on social media, said Tara Steinmetz, the Campus Events commissioner and a fourth-year French language and literature and global studies student. On its Facebook, for example, more than 800 people expressed interest in attending the event, she said.

The number of attendees in the event peaked at around 280 people, said Sage LaCroix, the CEC speakers director and one of the moderators of the event.

The Zoom room only had space for 500 people, but since many people entered and exited the Zoom call, there was enough room for everyone who was interested to join the event, LaCroix said.

The CEC had considered bringing Porowski to UCLA for a while but hadn’t because of his expensive booking rates. Porowski’s rates during quarantine were significantly lower, which allowed them to organize the event, LaCroix said.

Before the event began, CEC gave away 10 Visa gift cards to roughly subsidize students for the costs of the ingredients needed to cook Porowski’s dish.

CEC typically aims to attract about 300 people to campus events, so being able to achieve a similar number on Zoom is a great achievement, Steinmetz said.

Many students enjoyed the opportunity to cook with one of their favorite stars and listen to Porowski’s advice and personal experiences on a range of topics including living healthy, college lifestyle tips and more.

“In a confusing time like the present where internships are getting canceled and there is mass uncertainty, it was a nice event to look forward to,” said Sasha Nijor, a third-year communication student who attended the event.

Bella Stenvall, a third-year dance and Arabic student, cooked along with Porowski at her home and shared the excitement of seeing Porowski onscreen with her family.

Porowski’s insight into how the news can affect people’s mental health was especially relatable, said Ryan Tran, a first-year linguistics and computer science student.

“I want to be informed about what’s going on but that’s also a rabbit hole I go down and get anxious about,” Tran said.

Although the event was hosted virtually, knowing that many other people were also watching the event made it seem like an in-person communal experience, Tran said.

The event stood out to Nijor because of how relaxed and intimate it was.

“Even though he is a celebrity and you would expect him to have intense lighting or high production value, he was just in his kitchen,” Nijor said.

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Anushka Chakrabarti
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