Karen Akunowicz on cooking for PFLAG and her chances at winning “Top Chef” Fan Favorite

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AE: Well now you’re going to make me cry!

KA: I know! I’m just really lucky. Whether it has been my career—I’ve been doing this for 15 years now—they supported me when times were tough. When you’re a line cook, and you’re working long hours, and not making any money. My mom came to visit me and she bought me a new pair of clogs because I couldn’t afford them, and I was wearing shoes that had holes in them. Or, you know, just being my biggest fans and my biggest supporters.

And coming out and being out—my family just never blinked an eye. They have just always, always wanted me to be as happy as possible. And I know that I have been able to do everything in my life because of them and their unconditional love. So, working with PFLAG has been great, because I think our support systems—our allies, our friends and family—are so instrumental in our everyday lives, but also because this theme feels very personal to me this year.

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AE: That’s awesome. Have you worked with PFLAG before?

KA: I haven’t, this is my first time working with them. They got in touch with me through Tiffani Faison, who I believe was the Culinary Chair last year, and she said, “This was a great event, you should really think about doing it.” And I immediately was like, “Yes, I would love to work with them.” So it’s a new relationship that I have with Greater Boston PFLAG, and I’m very excited about it. I’m excited to work with them again in the future.

 

AE: So, what does a Culinary Chair actually do?

KA: [laughs] So, my role is—I’m designing the menu for the evening, it’s a three-course menu, and I’m working on it now with the chef at the event space. I think that my dessert is going to be inspired by something my mom used to make for me. I’ll be planning the menu, I’ll be overseeing the kitchen, and I’ll also attend the event and bring my mom with me. I’ll give a little speech and a shout out to my mom. So I’ll be coordinating the event as well as participating in the event.

 

AE: That sounds great. How has appearing on Top Chef affected your life and getting opportunities like this PFLAG event?

KA: I think it’s happening more often. I’ve been so lucky in my career in the past four or five years or so that organizations such as Future Chefs or Share Our Strength have reached out to me about doing different events and partnering or supporting them in different ways. There are definitely more opportunities because of Top Chef, because you have greater visibility and, for me, I think that’s great. More than anything else, if I can be part of an organization like Greater Boston PFLAG and help support this event that is so important to them and their funds to continue on for the rest of the year—that makes it worth it. That’s a real tangible value from the show.

 

AE: Yeah, that’s really awesome. So, speaking of the show, I know you’re in the top two for Top Chef Fan Favorite?

KA: I am! It has been so surprising and lovely that people liked me on the show, and liked what I did, and what I had to offer. Isaac [Toups] is—you know, he’s my fan favorite, too! I mean, he’s a very talented chef and he’s also hilarious. He kept me laughing the entire time that we were there. He’s just a fantastic person. So, to even be considered next to him as Fan Favorite is pretty awesome. It sort of already feels like I’ve won, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t vote for me. [laughs]

 

AE: I have been voting for you! And I really hope you get the win. Thanks so much for talking with me!

KA: Thank you!

 

If you’re in the Boston area, you can find more information about supporting or attending Greater Boston PFLAG’s Pride & Passion Gala here. And no matter where you live, be sure to vote for Karen for Top Chef Fan Favorite here. We’ll find out whether Karen or Isaac wins on Watch What Happens Live tomorrow night (March 17 at 9PM ET on Bravo).

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