A Word On Food

Saturdays at 8:34 AM

“Before the celebrity chef craze… before the start of Food Network, Norman Van Aken was starting a revolution. He was doing something unheard of at the time, taking local ethnic flavors, merging them together at restaurants where he worked.” --- The Smithsonian

Among his many masteries as a chef, Norman Van Aken is best known for introducing "fusion" into the lexicon of modern cookery and considered to be the founding father of New World Cuisine - a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors.  He is the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage” and was s a 2016 MenuMasters Hall of Fame inductee along with Jacques Pépin and Wolfgang Puck.

Van Aken is a James Beard semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America” and his namesake restaurant NORMAN’S, was nominated as a finalist for “Best Restaurant in America.”  He has represented the United States proud with international recognitions that include being honored alongside Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme and Mark Miller as one of the “Founders of New American Cuisine” at Spain’s International Summit of Gastronomy ‘Madrid Fusión’ (2006) and represented the State of Florida at the USA Pavilion at EXPO Milano as part of the World’s Fair (2015).

Van Aken has shared his cooking and career, penning more than five cookbooks (Feast of Sunlight; The Exotic Fruit Book; Norman’s New World Cuisine; New World Kitchen; My Key West Kitchen) and a memoir (No Experience Necessary… The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken).   His cookbooks have been hailed by Anthony Bourdain, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck; while his memoir captured the attention of the prestigious IACP/Julia Child Award and received a ‘finalist nomination’ along with Michael Pollan, Anne Willan and Luke Barr.

Chef Van Aken opened “1921 by Norman Van Aken” a restaurant in Mount Dora, Florida in September, 2016. The restaurant has 160 seats with indoor and outdoor dining open for lunch and dinner featuring “Modern Florida Cuisine”. It is in alliance with the extraordinary Modernism Museum directly across the street. The restaurant’s design includes many elements from the Museum’s collection of art. Additionally he is partnered with Candace Walsh to open “In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken”, a cooking school in Miami in June of 2017. The two are joined by restaurateur Susan Buckley and debuting a new restaurant and roof-deck lounge adjacent to the school due this summer. The restaurant is named “Three”. Chef Norman is the Chef and founder of NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando which opened in 2003 and has many local and national accolades.

Chef Van Aken has appeared on various television shows from CNN’s “Parts Unknown” with Bourdain to “Jimmy Kimmel Live.”  He is often cited as a culinary expert in publications such as The New York Times and Saveur.  Additionally, Van Aken is the hosts of “A Word on Food” a radio show that airs twice a week on NPR, in addition to being a staff writer for one of the leading culinary websites, The Daily Meal. There he is featured on his column, “Kitchen Conversations” which have featured chefs, authors, wine-makers, cocktail gurus and restaurant luminaries.

His next book, “Norman Van Aken’s Florida Kitchen” will be out in Fall of 2017 and published by University of Florida Press.

When he is not in the kitchen working up new recipes he can be found spending time with his wife, Janet; son, Justin; daughter-in-law Lourdes; and his pride and joy, his granddaughter, Audrey Quinn Van Aken.

Egg Sandwiches

Sep 29, 2018

Food Touristas

Sep 22, 2018


Sep 8, 2018

Egg Yolks

Sep 1, 2018

Fish Dip

Aug 18, 2018


Norman & Janet Van Aken © All Rights Reserved 2015, “My Florida Kitchen”

It kind of catches me when people say we don’t have the “Four Seasons” in Florida. I find myselfnot saying anything. Why argue? My wife and I come from the undeniably clear versions of them up in Northern Illinois so … we know. But when you live here in Florida the majority of yourlife… you can perceive seasonality very much. Let’s just put it this way for simplification. We eatceviche in hot weather and smoked fish dip in cool weather!

Corn Dogs

Aug 11, 2018


Norman Van Aken, © 2012


Yield: About 25 cookies

2 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons kosher salt

8 ounces butter, softened

1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups chopped bittersweet chocolate chips

1 Cup shredded unsweetened coconut

2 cups chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.


Jul 28, 2018


Norman Van Aken, 1993 © All rights Reserved

This is a stuffing we insert into raw chicken breasts before re-sealing the breasts and then cooking them. This can be done with pork as well.

1 very ripe plantain, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch size pieces

2 ounces foie gras cut into very small pieces

Salt and pepper, to taste


Jul 21, 2018


© 2015 All Rights Reserved by Norman Van Aken

Yields: 3 Pounds

2 pounds boneless pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 pound pork fat, cut into 1-inch pieces

5 1/2 Tablespoons pureed Chipotles en Adobo*

½ teaspoon cayenne

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

¼ Cup Spanish sherry wine vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly minced thyme leaves

Backyard Grills

Jul 14, 2018

Leche de Tigre

Jun 30, 2018

BLACK GROUPER CEVICHE WITH ‘LECHE DE TIGRE’ AND POPCORN                                                   

© 2015 All Rights Reserved by Norman & Janet Van Aken, “My Florida Kitchen”


Jun 23, 2018


© 2018 All Rights Reserved by Norman Van Aken

Serves: 6-8

For the Marinade:

6 Tablespoons sugar

6 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons crushed red pepper

3/4 Cup apple, peach or Asian pear juice

1/2 Cup dark roasted sesame oil

5 Tablespoons garlic, minced

1/4 Cup finely minced ginger

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Chinese New Year

Jun 16, 2018


Norman Van Aken ©1998

Serves 4

For the chicken and marinade:

4 boneless 8 ounce chicken breasts, skin on

3 Tablespoons light soy sauce

3 Tablespoons honey

1-Tablespoon spicy dark roasted sesame oil, (Ají)

1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder

2 cloves minced garlic

1) 2” piece of peeled ginger, minced

1 Scotch bonnet, stem and seeds discarded, minced

Freshly toasted and cracked black pepper, to taste


Jun 9, 2018


Norman Van Aken, © 2013

The Pier House ‘Meatloaf Contest’ was inspired one fateful afternoon by my dear friend Danny Mc Hugh. But it was most decidedly not a culinary head to head but a head to head of another order altogether. This one involved men and a kind of out gunning that belongs safely in the chapter named “The Pier House” and far from the world of recipes!

Yield: Serves 6-8

Meat mixture:

1# beef chuck, ground

1# pork, ground