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Chef Norman Van Aken

Norman Van Aken is known for introducing "fusion" into the lexicon of global cookery due to a speech in gave at a food symposium in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1992. He is also known as “The Founding Father of New World Cuisine” a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, American, and African flavors, thus pioneering a new, visionary way of cooking in America. Norman Van Aken 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 Menu Masters Hall of Fame inductee, along with previous winners including Wolfgang Puck and Jacques Pépin. He has received an Honorary Doctorate from Johnson & Wales University, the first in Florida so honored. 

He is a James Beard semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America”. His namesake restaurant NORMAN’S, in Coral Gables, was a finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America” and the only one thus far in the entire state.  He founded the second iteration of NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando in 2003. It too became a semi-finalist for “Outstanding Restaurant in America”. 

In 2023 he and his partners moved his namesake restaurant to the Dr. Phillips area of Orlando into a more modern space within the Dellagio Town Center.

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He has received a myriad of accolades over the years and 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). He represented the State of Florida at the USA Pavilion at EXPO Milano/World’s Fair. He was honored as the first Chef to sit on the Board of Directors for the James Beard Foundation.

Van Aken has shared his cooking and career, authoring 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 his dear, late ‘brother’ Charlie Trotter, Thomas Keller, Anthony Bourdain, Dr. Jessica Harris, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, Eric Ripert, and Wolfgang Puck. 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.

In 2020 he began donating his personal collection of papers, menus, photographs, letters, etc. to the Otto G. Richter Library at the University of Miami special collections at their request. He joined other famous Floridians Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, Charles Deering, and Janet Reno in this culturally and community enriching way. Chef Van Aken has appeared in many television shows over the years from CNN’s “Parts Unknown” with Anthony Bourdain to “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” He also appeared in the film documentary, "Love, Charlie: The Rise and Fall of Chef Charlie Trotter”. He is often cited as a culinary expert in publications such as The New York Times and Saveur and has been hailed as "Florida's Culinary Icon".

Chef Van Aken's most recent project is the highly successful series "Norman's Florida Kitchen" currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. In Season 1 of the series, he shares some of his favorite cooking tips and techniques from his many years in the restaurant industry. From fresh grouper in Key West to the rich aroma of Café con Leche in Little Havana, you are invited to follow along as Chef Norman teaches you how to cook in his one-of-a-kind fashion. Be sure to download and watch the full series to view clips from the new restaurant, along with scenes with his hard-working team here at Norman's Orlando.

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When Chef is not in the kitchen, he can be found spending time with his wife, Janet, his son Justin, and his granddaughter, Audrey Quinn Van Aken, who also has the love of cooking.