“Top Chef” alum and former Myers + Chang executive chef Karen Akunowicz touts her new Italian eatery
The fourth time’s the charm for Karen Akunowicz. After four consecutive nominations, she finally won the 2018 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Northeast. “It is still an absolute dream come true,” Akunowicz told Panorama. “No matter how many times I was nominated, I never expected to win. And each nomination felt like a win! I could have never imagined that for my life.”
The New Jersey native attended UMass Amherst, but cooking classes were not in the curriculum. “I went to culinary school when I was 23, instead of getting my master’s degree in social work as I had planned. However I didn’t know until my first night on the line that cooking would be my whole life going forward.”
After working in a few Boston-area restaurants, Akunowicz took off to Modena, Italy for a year. “I worked at a pastificio [pasta factory] making fresh pasta every day, with all of the nonnas who told me, ‘It doesn’t matter that you are not Italian, you have the touch. You make beautiful pasta because you are a woman.’” Now, after years spent making a name for herself back in Boston, she’s taking that formative Italian experience and opening an osteria, Fox & the Knife.
Akunowicz noted that Fox & the Knife’s management team—as well as the designer and the muralist—is all female. “I think we were all drawn to each other as strong women who are passionate about the work we do. And wow, they are all so talented.” Akunowicz is a vocal supporter of women in the male-dominated restaurant industry, and lends her voice to other food-related causes. “I think I am fortunate to have a platform to speak to these things, and if I don’t help move us forward, I’m holding us back.”
Though the space is new, the vicinity will be familiar: Fox & the Knife debuts in South Boston just a half-mile east of the South End’s Myers + Chang, where in 2017, Akunowicz garnered four stars from The Boston Globe as executive chef. While enjoying the renovations at Fox & the Knife, Akunowicz is eager to open. “The opening process is so exciting, but I really can’t wait to settle into the day-to-day routine of cooking, running the restaurant and seeing all of our guests.” When asked which new dish is her favorite, Akunowicz gushed, “All of them, they are all my loves—I couldn’t choose one.”
Fox & the Knife
28 W. Broadway, South Boston, 617-766-8630, foxandtheknife.com