Chefs

Watch an Adorable, Animated Karen Akunowicz Have Her Worst Shift Ever

Myers + Chang's pink-haired chef had to run the kitchen on her first day ever as a line cook.

Karen Akunowicz of Myers + Chang. / Photo by Mark Kurkowski

Top Chef fans may recall season 13’s “Restaurant Wars” episode, with Boston favorites Karen Akunowicz and Carl Dooley teaming up with other stellar chefs to create an entire restaurant in 24 hours, and run it smoothly for lunch and dinner. It was the most difficult setup ever for the climactic season challenge, but as general manager, Akunowicz made it look absolutely easy and led her team to victory.

Sure, she’s been Joanne Chang’s right hand as the executive chef and a partner at Myers + Chang for years—but maybe the reason Akunowicz slayed service at the pop-up restaurant, Palate, is because she was almost literally thrown into the fire on her first day ever as a line cook.

An animation by Sachio Cook, shared recently on Facebook by the chef-driven food media site Chefs Feed, tells the story of Akunowicz’s “worst shift ever.” She showed up at a tiny bistro in Boston and turned out to be the only cook who did that day. Akunowicz told the owner she could handle the night’s service, she says in the narration, but soon she has “a graveyard of dead soufflés.” The night goes downhill from there, while Cook’s bright-eyed rendition of the pink-haired chef avoids eye contact with all the hungry guests waiting for her to get it together.

It’s a must-watch during your lunch break today—maybe over a bowl of chicken pad grapow at Myers + Chang.

Akunowicz, who was a Best of Boston chef in 2016, has told Boston magazine another kitchen horror story about one New Year’s Day when her restaurant got slammed.

A couple of years ago, on New Year’s Day at Myers + Chang, we were really short-staffed and incredibly busy. We were busier than I had ever seen the restaurant. My team and I were prepping as fast as we could, and we were running through all of our food. And by 2 o’clock, everything we had prepped for the day was completely done, so we had to prep our entire list over again just to get through dinner. At that point in time, my sous chef put a knife through his hand while he was butchering fish, so I’m trying to keep him from bleeding, and I took over his project; and we had something happen with a gentleman who was screaming outside of the restaurant, so we had to call the police. It was just one of those days where you’re like, “Wow, could one more thing go wrong?” And the end of the day, we made all the food, and we made all the food again. And you all come out on the other side stronger for it.

Anyone else feel just a bit better about their workweek knowing that the dead-lifting, multi-time James Beard Best Chef Northeast nominee, fierce femme Akunowicz has had some truly awful days at work? Thanks for sharing, Karen. We sincerely hope you have a great day!

1145 Washington St., Boston, 617-542-5200, myersandchang.com.


Jacqueline Cain Associate Food Editor at Boston Magazine jcain@bostonmagazine.com