By: Christine Nicco, TRT Reporter—
BOSTON, Mass.—Pride & Passion, Greater Boston PFLAG’s (GB PFLAG) annual fundraiser to benefit its bullying prevention, family support and education programs, will take place during Mother’s Day Weekend on May 6 at 6 p.m. at The Boston Marriott Copley Place.This year’s theme celebrates the unconditional love and support of mothers.
A fundraiser known for its attention to outstanding culinary detail, the organization has dubbed Top Chef contestant Karen Akunowicz as Culinary Chair. As a longtime advocate of the LGBTQ community and Executive Chef of Boston’s Myers & Chang, The Rainbow Times recently caught up with Akunowicz to discuss her pride & passion for the community, PFLAG and food.
TRT: After graduation from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, you decided to travel the world. What was your greatest personal lesson learned by experiencing global cultures?
KA: For me, travel is one of the greatest experiences in life. It not only influences me as a chef but it also changes you as a person. I did most of my traveling by myself—it was the greatest gift I could have given myself. I learned how to be alone.
Q: How have your international experiences shaped your skills as a chef?
A: You not only learn new ingredients and recipes, but you experience them in an environment that shapes that dish. I can remember sitting outside at a cafe in coastal Italy, eating marinated anchovies. When I make a rendition of that dish, I want to bring you that whole experience. I want you to feel the sun on your face while you are eating it.
Q: You’ve lived in Boston for a decade now. What is it about Boston that made you choose it as your home?
A: I love all of the neighborhoods of Boston. I love the feeling of community and pride in where you live. I love working in the South End and having a community there and coming home to JP (now Roslindale) and having a completely different place to live, while stile being in Boston.
Q: You’re a fierce LGBTQ advocate. Why is the LGBTQ movement so important to you? Should it be to others?
A: Absolutely. LGBTQ rights are basic human rights. I will never feel anything less than fierce about humans being treated equally.
Q: What are some of the LGBTQ-related causes you’ve given to through your culinary expertise?
A: Greater Boston PFLAG, Fenway Community Health Center, Keshet, and Astrea.
Q: What to you think of the 2016 political season so far and how does it impact your advocacy work, or does it?
A: I think any year, whether it is a major election year or not, there is opportunity for great work to be done and strides to be made.
Q: What was your greatest takeaway from your participation on TV’s Top Chef?
A: It taught me to trust myself more—to believe in myself and in my instincts. I tried to be true to myself and just be exactly the person I am every day. I am incredibly proud of that.
Q: You’re serving as GB PFLAG’s culinary chair at their upcoming Pride & Passion benefit. How did this come to fruition and what can attendees expect from your presentation?
A: Tiffani Faison reached out to me—she was the culinary chair for Pride and Passion last year and connected me with GB PFLAG. I connected immediately with Tom Bourdon and it has been a great collaboration so far. I am creating the menu for this year’s event, as well as speaking. I’m incredibly proud to bring my Mom with me to the event this year, as she has always been my biggest supporter. This is a way for me to thank her.
Q: Why should the community also support GB PFLAG?
A: This event is incredibly important for GB PFLAG; it is how they fund the majority of their work throughout the year. I also think the Pride and Passion Gala is going to be one of the most outstanding events of the season.
Q: What is something about you that people would be surprised to know?
A: I’m obsessed with gumball machines and people who can juggle.
An internationally acclaimed chef, Akunowicz currently resides at Boston’s Myers & Chang as Executive Chef. Last year brought her a James Beard nomination for “Best Chef Northeast” and in 2014; she put her chicken and waffles recipe to the test when she battled it out on Beat Bobby Flay.
This year’s Pride and Passion fundraiser also includes the Attorney General of Mass. Maura Healey and her mother, Tracy Healey-Beattie, as Honorary Co-Chairs.
The Cornerstone of Equality 2016 Award Recipient is Cynthia Germanotta, Co-Founder and President of Born This Way Foundation, and proud Mother of Lady Gaga, a leading voice in the LGBTQ movement, a GB PFLAG release stated.