A Word On Food

Saturdays at 8:34 AM

Norman Van Aken
Chef Norman Van Aken
Credit www.normanvanaken.com

Norman Van Aken has been described as ‘legendary, visionary and a trailblazer’. He is known as “the founding father of New World Cuisine,” a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors. He is also known internationally for introducing the concept of “Fusion” to the culinary world.

His new book is a memoir. It is titled, “No Experience Necessary,” (Taylor Trade Publishing). The book has been praised by the likes of Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Monique Truong, Alan Richman (GQ Magazine), Jeremiah Tower, Wolfgang Puck and the late, great Charlie Trotter.

He is the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.” His restaurant “NORMAN’S was nominated as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Restaurant in America”. He has been a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America”.

In 2006, he was honored as one of the “Founders of the New American Cuisine,” alongside Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme, and Mark Miller at Spain’s International Summit of Gastronomy ‘Madrid Fusión’ event.

Norman Van Aken has published five cookbooks: Feast of Sunlight 1988, The Exotic Fruit Book 1995, Norman’s New World Cuisine 1997, New World Kitchen 2003 and My Key West Kitchen 2012, (with Justin Van Aken).

His radio show, “A Word on Food” appears twice a week on NPR station WLRN 91.3.

He is the chef and founder of “NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando.” 

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat August 24, 2013

Peanut Butter, I'm Nuts For The Stuff

If you’re like most people, you can be transported to a dream state when eating peanut butter.

If you’re like me, the dream is a long one and involves various forms, stages of life, battles with a sibling over who got the last spoonful, issues of textures and the divination of the knife’s scrapings on the clawed bottom of an empty jar.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat August 17, 2013

Ropa Vieja: Old Clothes, Big Flavor!

Facebook, I think most listeners know, has a larger population than, well, possibly Earth. It is too big to contemplate or—probably-- trust.

But there is one small colony on Facebook I have come to find haven and even sense in. It is a sub-community called, “I remember Key West when.” I go there to remember, savor and taste the roots of my cooking all over again. Other memory treasure salvers who still live full time down there, (or at least seem to) post pictures of the places I wandered into as I came to know my adopted home town.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat August 10, 2013

Gee Whiz! Philly Cheese Steak Sandwiches

When I go to a city as a guest chef, our hosts usually take great care of us and routinely offer to take us to one of the fancy or “Four Star!” restaurants in town.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat August 3, 2013

Strike Gold With The Heavenly Taste Of Avocados

I was out walking Bounder, the little dog our son Justin brought home from a shelter a few years ago, and was almost back home when I spotted a McArthur Dairy milk crate brimming over with a harvest of 20 or more backyard grown avocados on the edge a neighbor’s lawn.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat July 27, 2013

Roux The Day!

Credit wikipedia.org

One of the more dominant techniques that began to show up in the kitchens of the 17th Century was roux. Seldom has a technique undergone such a transformation in opinion amongst chefs and dedicated home cooks.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
1:31 pm
Sat July 20, 2013

Three Kings And Arepa Love

A high-pitched voice called out, “Arepa, Arepa, Arepa de Maiz!”

The ‘Parade of the Three Kings’ was heading our way and our son was marching with his South Miami High School band. Justin normally played the viola back in those days, but he surprised me as he hefted a huge drum and beat on it with energy and precision while he and his bandmates proceeded in musical celebration past us while tears of pride fell on my chest.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat July 6, 2013

Thank You Marco Polo! The Universal Love Of Spices

Mongolian Veal Chop
Credit Norman Van Aken

I have heard the sing-song voices of children in the swimming pools of hotels I’ve stayed in from Hattiesburg to Honolulu as they play a game called, “Marco Polo”. 

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat June 29, 2013

Keeping The Tradition Alive: The Great American Hot Dog

Credit Norman Van Aken

You may be making plans to celebrate our day of "National Independence" from the once “Tax Mad” English by having friends and family over for a backyard party. Possibly your menu will feature one of the all-time icons of American gastronomy, "The Great American Hot Dog".

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
1:21 pm
Sat June 15, 2013

How To Make Killer Fried Green Tomatoes

Credit Norman Van Aken

Have you seen that now classic commercial where a bunch of cowboys get all freaked out about a salsa that is produced in New York City?!

Well, I found it similarly amusing to be in an elegant restaurant in New York City! recently where they were offering me a menu which included caviar service, foie gras and a Fried Green Tomato Salad. I had to have that salad! It was pretty good but it couldn't match many I've had in some mighty funky places in the South and… at the $14 price tag, I could have had a Catfish Dinner with hush puppies, cole slaw and a pitcher of cold beer!

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat June 8, 2013

Big Steaks: Argentinian 'Matambre' Will Kill Your Hunger

Credit Norman Van Aken

Feeling carnal? Do you need to gnaw? Got a bone to chew on?

Here in the water wonderland of South Florida many of us are stampeding to steak houses like, well, like cattle.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat June 1, 2013

Searching For The Origin Of The Chorizo

Credit Wikimedia Commons

Most everyone knows, but I will say it for the un-baptized…chorizo is a kind of sausage. The first time I remember seeing chorizo was back in my hometown of Diamond Lake, Illinois in 1965 or so. It was around that time that many Mexican families began to immigrate to the area. They worked very hard founding a close knit neighborhood, which eventually became part of the broader patchwork quilt that epitomizes so much of North America now.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat May 25, 2013

Caesar Salad: The Most Unconquerable Of History's Salads

Credit domesticdaddy.net

Without a doubt this is history’s most unconquerable of all Caesars!

Go anywhere in the U.S. and, from truck stops to swank spots, this is the one salad you are most likely to encounter.

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat May 18, 2013

The Real Deal Story Behind The Cuban Boniato

Credit enenutricio.wordpress.com/

Back in the late 1990‘s at the original NORMAN’S restaurant in Coral Gables we had a young man who became our Lunch Chef named Eliecer Garcia. Like many young chefs he was very interested in cuisines from all over and when we talked about what to put on our lunch menu his ideas ranged from France to Hong Kong. I loved that but sometimes I’d say, “Eliecer. I want you to show me flavors your Cuban Grandmother would make and then we can twist them a little. Okay? Why don’t you show me how she would cook with … oh… boniato for instance? And then we’ll go from there.” 

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
12:24 pm
Sun May 12, 2013

Hobo Packs: A Culinary Treat For Old Time's Sake

Janet's 'hobo pack' designer beans
Credit Norman Van Aken

We flew up to join the family to celebrate my Mother-in-Law’s 90th (!) Birthday Celebration. When our family gets together we, like many families, get straight to the heart of the matter. What are we cooking?! What are we eating?!

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Norman Van Aken's A Word On Food
8:00 am
Sat May 4, 2013

A Brief Taste Of The Latin American Tamale

We love to pack a little carry on of food before getting on a plane. It’s a fine way to pass the time and avoid the bland, predictable and unhealthy!

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