A Word On Food

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“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.


Feb 18, 2018


Feb 10, 2018

chilean country ribs

© 2017 Norman Van Aken

Serves 4


The Caribe Indians on the island of Hispaniola taught the Spanish how to use green wood lattices to make barbacoa—or what we now know as barbecue. A staple of the islanders’ diet was the wild hog. The locals called the animals boucan, and that French word eventually came to be applied to many of the wild seafaring island men: buccaneers.



Feb 3, 2018


Norman Van Aken ©, 2001, “New World Kitchen”

The natives of Southern Colombia inherited pipían from the Inca Empire, which ruled them for a couple of centuries before the Spaniards arrived.

Yield:  60 + Empanadas

For the Filling: (Yields 4 Cups)

1 ½ pounds of red potatoes, peeled and diced

1 Tablespoon annatto oil (see pg xxx) or olive oil

1 Tablespoon whole butter

½ yellow onion, peeled and diced

Shrimp Al Ajillo

Jan 27, 2018


Norman Van Aken, © All Rights Reserved

To say this dish is forward in its robust flavors might just be an understatement. It is a dish that means “Shrimp and Garlic”. I include a different version of this Pan-Latin classic in my previous book, “Norman’s New World Cuisine”.  I am unapologetic in my fervor for big lusty flavors and this is a champion of proving so. If you must you could cut back on the garlic but please don’t tell me.

Yield: Serves 4

½ Cup pure olive oil


Jan 20, 2018

Foie Gras

Jan 6, 2018

Hoppin' John

Dec 30, 2017


Dec 23, 2017


Yield: 1/3 Cup

2 Tablespoons truffle juice

2 Tablespoon soy sauce

2 Tablespoons lemon juice

6 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

In a non-reactive mixing bowl combine the ingredients together.


Buche De Noel

Dec 16, 2017

Shortbread Cookies

Dec 9, 2017


Jane Manderson taught this to Norman and Janet Van Aken, © 1982

1 pound unsalted butter

1 ½ Cups sugar

2 eggs, beaten until fluffy

2-pound bag of flour

Put the butter, sugar and beaten eggs in a large bowl and cream very well.  Knead in the flour with your hands.  When it is all incorporated put the dough on an unfloured board and continue to knead for about 10 minutes.

La Caja China

Dec 2, 2017


Nov 21, 2017


Norman Van Aken© 2003

3 Tablespoons Roasted Garlic Oil or light olive oil

1 Tablespoon pink grapefruit juice

1 1/2 teaspoon Spanish sherry vinegar

1 teaspoon honey

Kosher salt and freshly toasted and ground black pepper, to taste

4 cups mixed greens, washed and patted dry

Whisk together the garlic oil, grapefruit juice, vinegar, honey, salt, and pepper.

Dress the greens as desired and serve.


Bao Buns

Nov 11, 2017

Black Beans

Oct 28, 2017


©2015 Norman Van Aken

Yields: 3 Cups

3 ears sweet corn, shucked

light olive oil as needed for the corn before grilling it and also to sauté the onions & bell peppers

salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 red onion, peeled & diced small

1/2 red pepper, stem, seeds and the whitish ribs removed & discarded, diced small

1/2 yellow bell pepper, stem, seeds and the whitish ribs removed & discarded, diced small