Norman Van Aken
Tuesday, September 16 10:30AM—11:30AMRestaurant Design Business Seminar
BiographyWorld-renowned chef Norman Van Aken is owner of the award-winning restaurant NORMAN'S located in the historic Coral Gables section of Miami. Van Aken’s best-known moniker is the "Father of New World Cuisine," referring, of course, to his personal interpretation of the many culinary influences that converge in the Southern Florida region, where he has made his name.
Van Aken began cooking in Key West in the early 70s, and for the next decade worked his way up through a number of local kitchens. He teamed up with restaurateur Gordon Sinclair back in his home state of Illinois in the early 80s, and soon returned to Florida to open Sinclair’s American Grill in the southern part of the state. In 1985 he returned to Key West and the kitchen of Louie’s Backyard; at Louie’s his style began to take shape and gain recognition – enough to attract the young Charlie Trotter to his kitchen. In 1989 he opened Mano in South Beach, penned his first book, and brought the term “fusion cuisine” into the modern culinary lexicon with a historic address at that year’s food symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Van Aken left Mano in 1993 and in 1995 opened the doors to NORMAN’S in Coral Gables, Florida. Since then, Van Aken has opened a second outpost in The Ritz-Carlton Orlando, has received a James Beard Award for Best Chef Southeast, and been inducted into the James Beard Foundation’s “Who’s Who” list. He has added three cookbooks to his list – two on New World Cuisine and one on exotic fruit.
Of his particular style of cuisine, Van Aken says he creates interplay of his classic culinary know-how and regionalism. His larder, in the most tropical area of the United States, includes conch, black beans, plantains, mangoes, coconuts, grouper, key limes, and more – and he approaches this bounty with a blend of folk cooking methods and modern techniques.
Van Aken was the first chef to become a member of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. He has received an honorary doctorate from Johnson and Wales University, and in 2006 he was honored as one of the “Founders of the New American Cuisine,” alongside Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme, and Mark Miller, at Madrid Fusion. Chef Van Aken is a member of the StarChefs.com Advisory Board, and recipient of the StarChefs.com 2008 South Florida Rising Stars Mentor Award.