Chef Norman Van Aken
What inspired you to become a chef?
I always loved food. The flavors, the colors, the smells... I loved being in the kitchen helping my mom when it was time to make her homemade jams and jellies... or shuck corn... or shell peas. But the thing that made me want to be a chef was also the goal of working with a TEAM and having that fun... like a band but with cooks instead of musicians.
What is you favorite day-off meal?
Barbeque. With garden fresh salads and vegetables to balance out big meaty ribs or steaks.
What three ingredients are you never without?
Olive Oil, (really!), vinegars or citrus of some kind and spices.
Friends just informed you they will be over for dinner in an hour – what is your go-to dish?
Fortunately my freezer is well stocked with homemade stocks, sauces, soups and stews so I can sauté or roast something quickly and have a killer sauce or base to make it pretty impressive still. But there is nothing wrong with bruschetta like dish with a good green salad on the side.
What is one skill that is essential for every home cook to know?
Be able to break from the program and wing it a little. Life is MEANT to be an adventure!
Chef Norman Van Aken is known as the founding father of New World Cuisine. He introduced “Fusion” into the lexicon of modern cookery and is the only Floridian inducted into The James Beard's: ‘Who’s Who of Food and Beverage 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. He is the Director of Restaurants at the Miami Culinary Institute/Tuyo as well as the co-owner of NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes Orlando.
The author of five cookbooks, his latest work is a delicious memoir which spans twenty-plus years and nearly as many jobs. From the graveyard shift at an all-night barbeque joint to a James Beard award finalist for best restaurant in America, Chef Norman has put his trusting heart, poetic soul, natural talent, and ever-expanding experience into every venture—and helped transform the American culinary landscape along the way. Read more about his memoir here: http://www.noexperiencenecessarybook.com/