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.

Yellowtail

Aug 30, 2014
Norman Van Aken

PAN-COOKED FILET OF KEY WEST YELLOWTAIL with a “Belly” of Garlicky Mashed Potatoes and a Citrus Butter Sauce

©1999 All Rights Reserved by Norman Van Aken

Yield: 4 entrees For the fish:

  • 1  egg
  • ¼ Cup half and half salt and pepper
  • ¼ Cup flour
  • 4) 8 ounces fillets of yellowtail snapper (or other thin, delicate fish)
  • ¼ Cup clarified butter, to cook the fish in

For the citrus butter: Yield: 1 ½ Cup

Passion Fruit

Aug 23, 2014
Norman Van Aken


Guilty Pleasures

Aug 16, 2014


Frito Pie

Aug 9, 2014
Frito Pie
Norman Van Aken

BICYCLE SAMMY’S FRITO PIE

©2014 All Rights Reserved by Norman Van Aken and Justin Van Aken. Excerpted from “My Key West Kitchen”, Kyle Books

The Midget was known foremost for its barbecued ribs. One day Sammy got the idea to cut the meat off the ribs leftover from the night before and toss it in a pot of chili. Because most home cooks are not faced with loads of leftover rib ends, we’ve replaced them here with braised pork shoulder to make a chili that’s just as flavorful but without the work of slow cooking on the grill and having to take the meat off the bones.

Fritters

Aug 2, 2014

Butter

Jul 26, 2014
A batch of home made butter.
Norman Van Aken

BROKEN OLIVE BUTTER

Norman Van Aken. © Copyright 2014

The olives here are "broken" so we can remove the pits. Then we make a simple compound butter with them with plenty of herbs, garlic, and spices to serve on the beef. Allow the butter to soften a little before placing directly on meat or fish that are hot from the grill, pan or oven.

Yield: 1 ½ Cups

Vaca Frita

Jul 19, 2014
A plate of Vaca Frita with rice and fried plantains
Norman Van Aken

Before I looked at him I heard his voice. He was ordering from the blackboard menu.

''Vaca Frita please with moros" he added. American accent all the way. But he knew he was going to be 

  getting rice and beans when he requested those items. Confidence all the way. He was told in Spanglish, "you get y una mas 'Side'."

He responded. "Do you have Maduro Plantains?"

"Si!"

Vaca Frita

Jul 19, 2014
A plate of Vaca Frita with rice and fried plantains
Norman Van Aken

Before I looked at him I heard his voice. He was ordering from the blackboard menu.

''Vaca Frita please with moros" he added. American accent all the way. But he knew he was going to be 

  getting rice and beans when he requested those items. Confidence all the way. He was told in Spanglish, "you get y una mas 'Side'."

He responded. "Do you have Maduro Plantains?"

"Si!"

The Egg

Jul 12, 2014
Norman Van Aken

The summer I became a golf caddie was one filled with suddenly unfamiliar routines and the deep lows and soaring highs of messy adolescence. I was 14 years of age and not skipping smoothly along the surface of life’s waters. My childhood pals, the Harris boys seemed to suffer no similar quandaries so as is so often the case of adolescent logic I was infinitely attracted to them.

Butchery

Jul 5, 2014
A collection of knives and other tools used by butchers
Norman Van Aken

  The sun was hot and bore down on a shirtless man holding a shining silvery saw. It was 1957 and we were in Miami Beach. I was with my parents and two sisters and we were amidst a crowd. Everyone sat in rapt silence in front of a cement bandstand near the hotel's swimming pool as he evoked other-worldly musical sounds from a standard carpenter’s tool. 

Scones

Jun 28, 2014
Scones.
Norman Van Aken

My grandmother made scones. Her maiden name was Janie Quinn so she came by that knowledge like her Scottish cousins did. Birthright!In Scotland scones are not somethingjust to go with tea. They are a national institution. When my grandmother, "Nana" mad e them she was serious to the point of severe. I picked up on it ... and she caused me to love them like I learned to love standing up in our grade school classroom reciting the 'Pledge of Allegiance'.

Plantains

Jun 21, 2014
Norman Van Aken

"Sherman, my boy," as Mr. Peabody from the old "Rocky and Bullwinkle" TV show might have intoned, "Please set the' Way Back Machine ' to the summer of 1973". We're going to a little restaurant on Duval Street in Key West called Cafe Expresso.

The Foods Of India

Jun 17, 2014

‘A Word on Food’ is done with words of course. Where would I be without them? Our blonde-haired, blue-eyed granddaughter Audrey is not yet two yet she is teaching me to try more communication...

Caviar

Jun 4, 2014
Containers filled with caviar.
Norman Van Aken

You don’t eat caviar because you’re hungry. But the portion set before us at a dinner the other night was certainly capable of staving off a serious quantity of pang.

We all eye’d the curvaceous morsels of edible hedonism. They were caviar-stuffed, chive-tied crêpes perched upon the base of empty, over-turned, long stemmed Riedel wine glasses. This caviar presentation was done in the style of the legendary “beggars purses” as created by Chef Barry Wine the once-upon-a-gilded-time owner of the ‘Quilted Giraffe’ restaurant of New York City.

Caramelization

Jun 4, 2014
Pictured from left to right, Onions in a skillet going through the cooking process of caramelization.
Norman Van Aken

Inevitably I have a conversation with nearly every chef that comes to work with me as well as the students who attend my cooking classes. It has to do with a cooking term “caramelization”.

Pages