Norman Van Aken has been described as ‘legendary, visionary and a trailblazer’ as well as ‘the culinary Titan of Florida’. He is “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 an internationally acclaimed author. His newest book is a memoir titled, “No Experience Necessary… The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken”, (Taylor Trade Publishing). The book has been praised by many including Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Emeril Lagasse, Jeremiah Tower, Wolfgang Puck and the late, great Charlie Trotter. The book was also nominated for the prestigious IACP/Julia Child Award.
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 fi-nalist 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,” along-side Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme, and Mark Miller at Spain’s International Summit of Gastronomy ‘Madrid Fusión’ event. In 2014 Chef Van Aken was presented the AIG Grand Prix Gastronomic Culture Prize to Norman Van Aken. He was the first Ameri-can to receive the honor. René Redzepi of Noma restaurant in Copenhagen won in his country.
Chef Andres Mendoza - Executive Chef
Originally from Mexico, Andres Mendoza grew up in Puerto Vallarta. He began cooking as a child with his mother and grandmother. At age 14, Andres’ mother already knew he would grow up to be a professional chef.
The Mendoza family moved to Orlando when Andres was 20 and he began working as a dishwasher in the hospitality industry. He fell in love with the kitchen atmosphere and began questioning the chefs on their work. Shortly afterwards, he began preparing food in several kitchens around Orlando. He flooded himself with as much experience as possible. His craving for knowledge led him to Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts.
During this time, Chef Juan Rendon recommended Andres to Chef Phillip Ponticelli at ‘Citricos’ restaurant. Andres gained two years here of fine dining experience.
Andres was then offered a position as Chef-de-Partie at NORMAN’S. Feeling an immediate connection with Chef Norman’s cuisine, his passion was reignited. The use of flavors native to his home reminded Andres of his beloved culture. He immersed himself in New World Cuisine and has since been honored with the Executive Chef position.