Only two women remained after the very first two-day Restaurant Wars episode, and we were so hopeful Karen Akunowicz would make it to the end with Marjorie Meek-Bradley. But unfortunately, it was Karen’s interpretation of food from the Empire of Japan that got her cut from the competition. Did Karen think she deserved to get kicked off? She reveals her side of it and much more below.
SheKnows: Who is your favorite Top Chef contestant of all time and why?
Karen Akunowicz: There are too many to name: Kristen Kish, Tiffani Faison, Stephanie Cmar, Casey Thompson, Gregory Gourdet, Grayson Schmitz, Kevin Gillespie. The list goes on and on. I have been a Top Chef fan for a long time.
SK: Were you surprised by your elimination?
KA: I always prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. Luckily, because of this, not too much takes me by surprise.
SK: What was it like working with all of the judges on the show?
KA: Amazing. It is such a great opportunity to get feedback from people of their caliber. That takeaway is huge.
SK: Which contestant do you think deserves to win? Who are you rooting for?
KA: It is still anyone’s game! I am rooting for everyone.
SK: Who did you consider your biggest competition?
KA: On any given day, it was anybody’s chance. Everyone was the competition.
SK: Was there anyone on the show you really clashed with? Who was it and why?
KA: I am sure there were tense moments with everyone, but I don’t think I clashed with anyone consistently. I am still really close with everyone from the show.
SK: Who is your favorite out of the judges and why?
KA: No way, that’s too hard.
SK: Who do you think deserved to go home on last night’s episode?
KA: Any of us in the bottom three could have gone home. It wasn’t my night, and that’s OK.
SK: What was the best experience you had on the show?
KA: Meeting and cooking with all of the chefs — what a great big life experience it was! I loved cooking at Beefsteak, working with Carl and Kwame. I loved our food that night, especially Kwame’s shrimp. We had a great energy and vibe going. I think we got robbed on that one.
SK: What was the biggest challenge for you on the show?
KA: So much of the food I make takes a tremendously long time — slow roasting, braising, simmering sauces for hours, or making lemongrass paste takes two hours. The time was a challenge for me and for the way that I cook. There is a lot of time and love that goes into a recipe for me, and I really needed to adjust my cooking in that way. I think you could see that in many of the dishes that I cooked, but those quick-fire challenges were really challenging.