Talking about recipes, Norman says that chefs "must almost continually be in the act of creativity....A recipe is a map," he says. "The dish is the real place of arrival."
Norman Van Aken is known internationally as the founding father of New World Cuisine, and helped to put South Florida on the culinary map, where it has held a celebrated spot for a number of years. He is known as the man who introduced the term “fusion cooking” to the world.
His culinary philosophy is to create a marriage of the sensual and rustic with the classic and intellectual in a celebration of the various places we live. This led Chicago chef Charlie Trotter to call Norman the “Walt Whitman of American Cuisine.”
Norman is the author of Feast of Sunlight; The Exotic Fruit Book; Norman’s New World Cuisine, nominated for the Julia Child/IACP award; and New World Kitchen. His two most recent books are a memoir, No Experience Necessary, and a book coauthored with his son Justin, also a chef, called My Key West Kitchen.
As the leader of a quartet of talented South Florida chefs in the 1980s, Norman introduced the fusion of Latin,Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors. This style of cooking is considered one of our culinary treasures.
Norman is the chef and director of restaurants for Tuyo/Miami Culinary Institute. He also is the long-time chef-owner of Norman’s at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Orlando.
In 2006, he and three other American chefs were honored as Founders of the New American Cuisine by Spain’s International Summit of Gastronomy Madrid Fusión Event. Honored with him were Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme, and Mark Miller.
Norman was inducted into the James Beard Who’s Who in American Cooking and was the James Beard winner in 1997 of Best Chef in the Southeast. Norman’s, his restaurant, was named the Best Restaurant in Florida by the New York Times, and the first year it was eligible, Norman’s was named The Best Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. Gourmet magazine named it one of America’s Top Tables.
The chef was the first in America to become a member of the James Beard Foundation’s Board of Trustees. At the end of his tenure, he was asked to accept the Celebrated Culinarian Award posthumously for James Beard himself. The award was given by The American Culinary Federation. Norman now is a member of the James Beard Foundation’s National Advisory Board.
The chef was honored by Johnson and Wales University with an honorary doctorate. He also is one of the only chefs to have won both the Robert Mondavi Award and the Food Arts Silver Spoon for lifetime achievement.
Norman’s work has appeared in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Charlie Trotter’s cookbooks, Australian Vogue, and many more. He has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Emeril Live, to name a few television programs. He has cooked, consulted, written and lectured internationally on New World Cuisine.
Norman lives in Miami and Key West with his wife and soul mate Janet. They have one son, Justin, who, as mentioned, is also a chef.