In 1971, Norman Van Aken answered a want ad for a short-order cook in Libertyville, Ill. Although his mother worked as a restaurant waitress and hostess, Van Aken had no kitchen training. The job paid just $3.50 per hour, but at least he knew he was qualified. “No experience necessary,” read the ad—three words so fateful that they became the title of Van Aken’s memoir 43 years later.
Van Aken ended up in Florida, where he established his culinary reputation in Key West, Miami (his home base) and Orlando, where he’s currently chef and founder of NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes. He’s known for New World Cuisine—a blending of his adopted home state’s multicultural influences, including Latin, Caribbean, African, Asian and American. As the chef lauded for introducing the concept of “fusion” to the culinary world, Van Aken has been recognized with such honors as being one of the “Founders of the New American Cuisine,” alongside Alice Waters, Paul Prudhomme and Mark Miller, at Spain’s International Summit of Gastronomy in 2006; and as a James Beard Foundation semi-finalist for “Best Chef in America.” NORMAN’S has been nominated as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Restaurant in America,” and Van Aken is the only Floridian inducted to the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.” Continue reading »
The staff of the Bacara Resort & Spa in Santa Barbara, Calif., watched in awe as Los Angeles-based 5 Star Kosher Catering (a division of Someone’s in the Kitchen) unloaded hors d’oeuvre trays for a glatt kosher wedding.
Among the assortment were petit lamb chops with pinot noir glaze, beef sliders with caramelized onions, tuna tartare in savory cones and vegetarian empanadas with salsa. Later came an edible flower and greens salad with tangerine vinaigrette; and a choice of bone-in grilled rib-eye with truffle sauce, herb-crusted roasted sea bass with lemon/caper sauce, or mushroom artichoke strudel.
“Wow! This can’t be kosher,” they proclaimed.
“People don’t think it can be kosher and out of this world,” observes 5 Star’s president, Joann Roth-Oseary. “The truth is that it certainly can be!”
Judy Marlow, owner of New York-based Simply Divine, a kosher catering and event planning company, agrees. Originally a designer, she cares about presentation as much as food, saying that her company is “secular in style but happens to be kosher.” Continue reading »
For Catering Magazine’s annual food-and-beverage issue, we wanted to find out what caterers are serving on their menus that have guests cheering, and the techniques that chefs are favoring now to get clients talking—and keep them coming back for more. So we asked a handful of catering companies to share their current favorites. “What’s cooking?” we asked. Their interesting answers demonstrate innovation and creativity, as well as a commitment to stick with what works. Continue reading »