“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. He is also known as the “founding father of New World Cuisine” - a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, American and African flavors. He is the only Floridian Chef inducted into the prestigious James Beard Foundation’s list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage”. He was a 2016 MenuMasters Hall of Fame inductee along with previous winners Wolfgang Puck and Jacques Pépin.
Van Aken is a James Beard semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America” and his namesake restaurant NORMAN’S, in Coral Gables, was nominated as a finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America.” The only one thus far in the entire state of Florida. He founded NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando in 2003, also a semi-finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America”, only the second restaurant in the history of Florida to reach the semi-finalist stage (The first was NORMAN’s in Coral Gables). He has received numerous local and national accolades over the years, and has represented the United States 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/World’s Fair (2015).
Van Aken has shared his cooking and career, penning six cookbooks (Feast of Sunlight; The Exotic Fruit Book; Norman’s New World Cuisine; New World Kitchen; My Key West Kitchen; Norman Van Aken's Florida Kitchen) and a memoir (No Experience Necessary… The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken). His cookbooks have been hailed by Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Eric Ripert, and 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. His latest published book, Norman Van Aken's My Florida Kitchen, was selected to represent the USA in the local category of the Gourmand International World Cookbook Awards and has been awarded the Florida Book Award’s Gold Medal for Cooking.
Another project is, ‘Time Out Market Miami’ Food Hall where he has two concepts. One is based on his beloved Key West and the other is his take on artisanal pizzas. The original Time Out Market is in Lisbon, Portugal with more markets to follow in New York, Chicago, Boston, London, Dubai and Montreal. The food hall is about 20,000 square feet and is already becoming a Miami standout for tourists and locals alike.
Chef Van Aken has appeared on various television shows from CNN’s “Parts Unknown” with Anthony 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 host of “A Word on Food” a radio show that airs weekly on NPR station 91.3 WLRN in Miami.
When he is not in the kitchen, 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.
One of our favorite conversations: Harry and Michelle Coleman went from journalism school to the kitchen. Their new smokehouse doesn't make your usual barbecue; they've created 'Miami barbecue.' They tell us about their brisket rubbed with ground espresso, ribs glazed with guava-chili sauce and the smoked flan. We originally aired this conversation in September 2023.
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