My Key West Kitchen
Recipes and Stories
Published October 7th 2017
Award-winning chef Norman Van Aken has been cooking in Florida for 40 years. My Key West Kitchen is his love letter to Key West, where he first found the passion to cook, and where the unique cultural makeup of the island influenced his cuisine today. Follow Chef Van Aken as he strolls through Key West, reminiscing and re-creating dishes from “little joints” and restaurants both past and present.
Organized by well-known Key West neighborhoods, the chapters include “Duval and Downtown Crawlin',” “Places in the Hoods,” “Places on the Water,” and “Around Town These Days.” In each, Norman includes recipes for his own take of the first foods and drinks he experienced in Key West and how they seemed “different than ordinary American fare,” from the Sunday Fish Fry at Capt. Tony's to the Rib Sandwich and Dark & Stormy from the Bahama Village Elk's Club. Norman also focuses on the home cooking of Key West, whether it's “Yard Bird” Fricasse with Collard Greens and Pot Likker from the Tropical American South, Plaintain Soup from the Spanish Caribbean, or Nassau Grouper in Banana Leaves with Coconut “Run Down” from the British Caribbean. Interspersed throughout each chapter as well, Norman revisits eight menus from his past and chooses three of his favorite recipes from each, including the Sunshine Lime Pie from his very first cooking job at The Midget in 1973 to the Wild Mushrooms on Brioche with Sherry Cream and Serrano Ham that he created at the infamous Café at Louie's Backyard in 1987. Norman and his co-author and son, Justin, also include many examples of what they are cooking today like a Tamale Scramble with Chorizo and Jack Cheese or Justin's Best-Ever Peanut Butter Ice Cream. Finally, Chapter 5, The Bodega, includes 20 must-have pantry recipes to guarantee successful cooking in your own Key West kitchen.
Norman Van Aken has been described as “the culinary Titan of Florida” and “the founding father of New World Cuisine,” a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African, and American flavors. He is the chef behind NORMAN'S in Orlando, which was nominated as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation's “Best Restaurant in America,” as well as 1921 by Norman Van Aken at the Mount Dora Modernism Museum. The author of five cookbooks and one memoir, Van Aken is currently at work on founding a cooking school in Miami.
Justin Van Aken, a culinary consultant and a chef as well, specializes in food preservation techniques and sustainability. Together they have formed Van Aken Consulting, Inc. Both authors split their time between Miami and Key West.