Chef Karen Akunowicz has become synonymous with Boston, popular on food television, and has been awarded for her food and her restaurants. Now solo author is the latest title on her marquee, and she’s excited to showcase her efforts. Many chefs say their restaurants and menus are a lifetime in the making and Akunowicz agrees, admitting her new cookbook, similarly, has been on her mind and a “work in progress” for several years. However, opening new restaurants (Fox & The Knife and Bar Volpe), receiving national recognition, having a family, and enduring a global pandemic can easily explain why her book took a little longer to simmer, so to speak, before bubbling to the surface. Well, she and her fans no longer have to wait. Crave: Bold Recipes That Make You Want Seconds hits the shelves on September 19.
Whether it’s the desire for something salty, spicy, creamy, or cheesy (and a host of other ys), Chef Akunowicz knows the types of cravings we usually have when it comes to food often go well beyond the desire for a specific dish. Crave gets right to point, or palate and belly, rather, by dividing up the book by those yearned-for cravings. And beyond the desire for something salty or crisp, for example, Akunowicz reminds readers that those hankerings are often signals to emotions and experiences from our past. Maybe it’s young love or summers by the ocean; or the aroma of grandma’s sauce wafting through the house on a Sunday afternoon.
Whatever the nostalgic tie, Chef Akunowicz takes readers right there with recipes anyone can make at home. Punctuated by her own personal stories of growing up in New Jersey to living in Italy, to her work with other chefs and with global cuisines, Crave brings her culinary experiences to a crescendo. Including easy-to-follow instructions and rich, vibrant photography, this cookbook will likely become a much-beloved, dog-eared go-to in the home cook’s library.
—James Beard Winner (2018)
—A Food & Wine Best New Restaurant (2019)
—Eater International Best New Restaurant (2019)
—#3 Best New Restaurant USA Today (2020)
Being good at what you do and recognized for it doesn’t mean a new experience will be less challenging or intimidating. Akunowicz has actually worked on a cookbook before. As the Executive Chef at Myers + Chang for many years, she coauthored the restaurant’s cookbook in 2017 to mark its 10th Anniversary. That said, going at it alone was a whole new ballgame. “So much of what we do is a labor of love, and books certainly fall into that category,” Chef Akunowiz notes when discussing the challenge of writing the book. Nevertheless, the ideas and recipes were waiting to be shared.
“It has been in my heart and on my mind since 2017,” she continued. But so was opening her first restaurant, Fox & Knife, which features northern Italian Cuisine. Floored by the recognition, the restaurant became the focus, and her book had to wait. “It was so amazing to be this small place that I had envisioned for so long, and have people get what we were doing, recognize it and love it…but of course that didn’t leave enough time to write a book.” And then, within a year of opening, the pandemic struck, and that changed the course of everything.
Thankfully, Akunowicz and her team were able to keep the restaurant going amidst the pandemic; they were able to create a line of fox pasta products—namely meal kits, sauces, and fresh pastas—and keep the community fueled with manageable dishes diners could assemble at home. Then, in 2021 she opened Bar Volpe which features southern Italian cuisine and a stunning pasta- making room in the middle of the restaurant.
With both restaurants well underway and running successfully, Akunowicz was able to carve out time and work on the book. With an 18-month timeframe, and “can-do” spirit from her publisher and family, Crave finally became a realistic pursuit. The book has become the perfect culmination of who Akunowicz is as a chef in her own restaurants, as well as her culinary work in Italy, at Oleana in Cambridge, and at Myers + Chang.
“Like opening a restaurant, it’s a very vulnerable experience,” she says about the process of writing the book. “It’s very humbling,” In Crave, Akunowicz passes the torch to home cooks and hopes they’ll be inspired to make the dishes so many can find a connection to but might just need a little push to make themselves. With 100 recipes, spanning ten sections, and covering the types of cravings that scratch every itch—crunchy, crispy, spicy, salty, tangy, bright, sweet and more—there are dishes home cooks would be proud to serve at their home tables. Like Chicken Milanese with Pickled Cherries and Arugula Salad; Brown Butter–Roasted Cauliflower with Hazelnuts; Christmas Short Ribs; or Grandma Hattie’s Peach Cake, the cookbook conveys a warmth that so obviously fuels the kitchens Chef Akunowicz guides.
“Here. I’ve made this for you…,” she says with cupped hands, as she would when serving a plate of food that comes from the heart, or now, as she releases her book to the world. “I hope you like it.”