“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, American and African flavors. He is the only Floridian chef 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; 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, 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. 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.
Chef Van Aken's has two restaurants in Central Florida; NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando which opened in 2003 and has been celebrated with numerous local and national accolades over the years and 1921 by Norman Van Aken, in Mount Dora that opened in September 2016. The 160-seat restaurant offers “Modern Florida Cuisine” and 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.
In 2017, Van Aken, along with partners Candace Walsh and restaurateur Susan Buckley debuted Three, a new modern fine-dining concept and No. 3 Social a complementing roof-deck lounge in Miami's Wynwood arts district. Adjacent to the restaurant is “In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken,” a cooking school he will open with Walsh in June 2018.
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.
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.