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Norman Van Aken, Biography

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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. 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, was nominated as a finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America.” The only one thus far in the entire state of Florida. His restaurant NORMAN’S in Orlando has also been a semi-finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America”. He 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 the late Anthony Bourdain & Charlie Trotter as well as Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Eric Ripert, 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 is the founder of NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando which opened in 2003. The restaurant has been celebrated with numerous local and national accolades over the years including being only the second restaurant in the history of Florida to reach the semi-finalist stage for the “Best Restaurant in America” by the James Beard Foundation. The other finalist was NORMAN’S in Miami.  He and his partners are in the midst of building a new NORMAN’S in Orlando. 

Another new project is, ‘Time Out Market Miami’ Food Hall where he has two concepts. One is based on his love of Island Flavors named, “My Caribbean Kitchen” and the other is his take on pizza as designed by Norman, (Peace Pie). The original Time Out Market is in Lisbon, Portugal with more markets in New York, Chicago, Boston, London and Montreal.

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 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.

© 2021 Norman Van Aken. All rights Reserved.