Famed Chef Norman Van Aken will be throwing quite the shindig on April 9. As part of the Florida Film Festival, he’ll host Floridian Feasting: A Native Tribute, which promises to be nothing short of scrumptious.
With dishes like Gasparilla Island grouper cheeks, steamed Steinhatchee clams, and Key West gamecock, few would disagree. Recently, I had a chance to catch up with the “Father of New World Cuisine,” and here’s what he had to say:
Have you been to the Florida Film Festival in the past? If so, what do you enjoy most about the event?
I have. The people the Enzian team attract to do this and to attend it are fun, interesting folks who are passionate about food, culture of all sorts and know that this festival is one of the great treasures of the Orlando area.
What made you want to be a part of it this year?
I am a person who has devoted his life’s work to the state of Florida, and this year is all about this “Land of Flowers.”
Can you give us a sneak preview of what’s to come at the Florida Feasting event?
I have invited two of Central Florida’s greatest chefs to join me and my team at Norman’s for a dinner I promise it will be amazing. It will fully illustrate the power of foods grown and obtained nearby us. Chefs Greg Baker of “The Refinery” in Tampa and Chef Tim Keating of “The Flying Fish Cafe,” (both James Beard finalists) will be our featured chefs.
Where do you live now?
We are back in our beloved Key West, (which is where I got my cooking start). I come to be with our Orlando Norman’s team about 10 times a year.
How does it feel to be called the Father of New World Cuisine?
It’s an honor and exciting/humbling. I am especially touched when chefs/cooks from the countries of the Caribbean, Central and South America and even as far away as India acknowledge me.
Do you remember some of the first meals you cooked as a young chef?
I remember way more than anyone should! I started cooking in a diner just before my Key West adventures. We roasted huge sections of beef, made gravies, pancake batter burgers cooked on a griddle, and I put together hot turkey sandwiches and three-egg omelets all in that first brush with cuisine.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
I play harmonica in a blues rock country band with some other chef friends.
Describe the moment you knew you were destined to be a chef.
I would say it was at The Pier House in Key West. Other young people were working there that actually thought of it as a “profession.” Before that it was blue-collar work and just something I was more into than the factory and construction jobs I hated before that. At The Pier House we actually had arguments about how to make the food better. That hooked me and made me want to go deeply into that world!
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am inspired by a combination of raw ingredients, the millions of recipe memories in my head, hunger of a kind, desire of another.
Floridian Feasting: A Native Tribute
Saturday, April 9, 6:30 – 10 p.m.
NORMAN’S at The Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes
$125 – Click here to purchase
Visit floridafilmfestival.com for more stellar events like this.