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Karen Akunowicz and Carl Dooley prepare for their ‘Top Chef’ debut

Chefs Karen Akunowicz and Carl Dooley.photos by Andrew Eccles/Bravo/Bravo

We can root for two local contestants on the next season of "Top Chef," which takes competitors around California. Karen Akunowicz , a New Jersey native who's now the executive chef at Myers+Chang, and Carl Dooley , who's opening a restaurant called The Table early next year, are both competing on the show, which begins airing next Wednesday. Akunowicz, who went to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, said "Top Chef" producers have asked her to audition for the show four years in a row. "Last year they were like, 'We really think you should try out this year.' I was like, 'I'm getting married,' " she said. This year, she finally had time. Akunowicz said the staff at Myers+Chang is excited to see her debut, but explained that they won't be watching at the restaurant. "We don't have a TV at Myers+Chang."

Dooley, who grew up around Somerville and Cambridge, said that when he watches the premiere with friends, he'll just "try not to throw up watching myself on TV." He said he considered "Top Chef" "sort of like a guilty pleasure," and was always quick to make assumptions about the contestants, but now that he's gone through the competition himself, he knows it's not so easy. "Once you get there, you realize it's real," he said. Dooley trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont and worked for Tony Maws at Craigie Street Bistro.