It seems here at the electronic Gourmet Guide we have a knack for picking out winners. Last month we featured two books which, after we selected them for our issue, received Julia Child Cookbook Awards. This month, we are pleased to say that after submitting the feature below, it's author received a James Beard Award. Perhaps we have the golden touch! —Kate Heyhoe, Editor
Hailed as the originator of South Florida's vibrant New World Cuisine, Norman Van Aken was awarded Best American Chef of the Southeast by the James Beard Foundation on May 5, 1997, and was also named as Award of Excellence finalist at the International Association of Culinary Professionals conference the month before. The eGGsters had already been impressed with him, not just for his outstanding culinary talents but also for his overall sense of creativity. In our interviews with other chefs, we have found that many express themselves in more than one medium. Jacques Pepin, for instance, not only cooks, he paints. Likewise, Norman doesn't check his creative energies at the kitchen door. Instead, he writes. A short while ago, before the James Beard Awards were announced, I asked Norman if he would be interested in writing something for the electronic Gourmet Guide audience. I had read many articles about him, but none of them touched on his literary skills, which verge on fantasy and romance. I was delighted when he agreed.
On the culinary front, we also share with you some tantalizing recipes from Norman Van Aken's Feast of Sunlight: 200 Inspired Recipes from the Master of New World Cuisine (Harvard Common Press). It's available later this month, and we think the timing is perfect for summer, when our minds and palates long for a vacation to some exotic world. Who better than Norman Van Aken to be our guide!
In a note to me about his story, Norman said "My Conch Shell is my 'Rocinante' as well as my underground apartment a la Ralph Ellison's in 'The Invisible Man.' I also envision the conch shell as my 'time machine' which allows me to go back and forth through my life as a chef to other restaurants. I think it would be very interesting to do a story on 'Louie's Backyard' so I could incorporate my hiring Charlie Trotter, etc." Hmmm... very interesting... let's do it! without further adieu then, we introduce you to Chef Norman Van Aken—in his own words.
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