The Van Akens Co-Author "My Key West Kitchen"
Long before Jimmy Buffett wrote "Margaritaville" about Key West, James Beard award-winning chef Norman Van Aken had already pledged allegiance to the magical little scrap of land at the end of the rainbow.
Van Aken says "I just felt lucky when I walked the old small streets and alleys, protected by some ancient maternal force." Something deep in his soul told him this was a place where he could find peace and quiet and the camaraderie of like-minded people.
On top of that, Key West was stamped with a raffish charm, a joie de vivre. It was in The Keys that Van Aken first found his passion for cooking and where the unique cultural make-up of the island really made a major influence on his cuisine.
As the director of Restaurants at The Miami Culinary Institute/Tuyo as well as Chef-Owner of Norman's at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando, 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 Van Aken was honored as one of the "Founders of the New American Cuisine," alongside Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme, and Mark Miller in Madrid.
Now all food lovers can enjoy the diverse flavors of Key West with Van Aken's new cookbook, co-written with his son, chef Justin Van Aken, "My Key West Kitchen: Recipes and Stories," which literally is the father-and-son team's love letter to the island.
Justin was born in Key West, Florida, and started in the pastry department of Norman's in Coral Gables at age 22. Working with his father, he has helped to open seven restaurants; he staged at Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, and Incanto in San Francisco. My Key West Kitchen is his first cookbook.
Part cookbook, part travelogue, part memoir, cooks can follow the two Van Akens as they stroll through the streets of Key West, reminiscing and recreating dishes from "little joints," established restaurants, and from the kitchens of friends and family past and present.
In addition to My Key West Kitchen, Van Aken has authored five cookbooks Feast of Sunlight (1988), The Exotic Fruit Book (1995), Norman's New World Cuisine (1997), New World Kitchen (2003), and is finishing his memoir, No Experience Necessary. Norman has appeared on Today, Good Morning America, The Early Show, CNN, and The Food Network as well as featured in numerous national and regional magazines and newspapers.