James Beard award-winning Karen Akunowicz is one of the many fan favorites who hail from the land of Top Chef. The fiercely amazing culinarian won our hearts when she first competed on the show’s 13th season before she unpacked her knives once more for its second All-Stars version in 2020. Both times she did an incredible job at showing off her amazing chops in the kitchen all while being unapologetically herself in every way possible. She is also one of the many members of the LGBTQ community who have competed on the Emmy-winning series with two of its badasses winning in the end.
Kristen Kish first won it in the 10th season of the show before Melissa King tasted victory earlier this month on Top Chef: All Stars LA. It is something that Karen, who is the brains behind the absolutely delicious Boston-based restaurant Fox & the Knife, talked with us about in our EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with her. She also chatted about Pride Month, who her biggest LGBTQ icon is and so much more!
How did it feel when another member of the LGBTQ community, Melissa King, won your season? I mean, I was wearing my Melissa t-shirt that day. I was so excited. So excited for her. At the same time, I fell in love with everybody that was on the show this season. It was such a good cast and such a great group of chefs.
How are you honoring Pride Month while quarantined? So, I have to say I have not been in quarantine. We never closed the restaurant. We stayed open the entire time, for takeout and for deliveries. I was getting up every day and the eight of us that were running the restaurant got up every day and went to work every day. So it’s been a really surreal experience.
Also we are donating to multiple organizations for Pride Month such as the Okra Project. The Okra Project is a collective that seeks to address the global crisis faced by Black Trans people by bringing home cooked, healthy, and culturally specific meals and resources to Black Trans People wherever they can reach them. In addition, I’m working with Spiceology and Grrrl Clothing on Pride specific campaigns and encouraging others to show their Pride on social media.
To celebrate Pride, I have chosen to look back at our roots this year, to where Pride started. The first Pride was a riot. But history has been written to disqualify and erase the efforts of those at the frontlines: the black queer community, specifically black transgender women.
Who is your ultimate LGBTQ icon? I would say singer Mary Lambert. You know, I think she’s a queer icon for our generation and for the next generation. She’s been very vocal about LGBTQ issues but she also really speaks to mental health issues including body positivity. I just think she thinks she’s like a shining, talking ray of hope and reality for young people.
What advice would you give to anyone in the LGBTQ community who’s celebrating pride for the first time this year? I think that always, you know, celebrating pride is celebrating yourself. It’s celebrating our community. It’s celebrating the diversity in our community. And so no matter what’s happening in the world, I think it’s really important to do that. So in whatever ways, whether it’s having a zoom kind of party, whether it is making a donation of your time or your effort or your money, you know, whichever is the most valuable to you, I think that’s really important.