Chef Norman Van Aken got his start while was working the merry-go-round for a traveling carnival. He didn’t think it was that exciting. He spoke about that experience and also his new book, “No Experience Necessary” at Flavorish Market recently. When asked about his carny colleagues and if they had gone onto successful careers like him, he replied “Most of those guys end up in the slammer.” Van Aken left the carnival circuit and gravitated towards restaurants, “I kept going back to restaurants, there was something about them. When I would go for an interview, I wasn’t trying to be a chef, I was just trying to survive.”
When the Chef Van Aken was working for, Chef Fred Boomer, he broke both of his arms – that proved to be his own “big break.” Van Aken that had to step in and pick up the slack. Chef Boomer was famous for his incredible soups – Van Aken learned how to make them all. “I asked every dumb question anyone’s ever asked so I could make his soups,” said Van Aken. He learned how to make all of Boomer’s soups and went on to establish himself as one of the great chefs in the world.
Norman Van Aken has been described as ‘legendary, visionary and a trailblazer’. He is known as “the founding father of New World Cuisine,” a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors. He is also known internationally for introducing the concept of “Fusion” to the culinary world. He is the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage.” His restaurant “NORMAN’S” was nominated as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Restaurant in America”. He has been a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America”. In 2006, he was honored as one of the “Founders of the New American Cuisine.”
Chef Van Aken has published six cookbooks and his radio show, “A Word on Food” appears twice a week on PBS WLRN 91.3. He is the Chef and Co-Owner of “NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando.”