It's not every day a celebrity comes to Mount Dora, let alone starts a business. Perhaps that's why there is so much anticipation for Chef Norman Van Aken's new restaurant to open downtown. More likely, it's because of his amazing vision, talent and passion for food.
"1921 by Norman Van Aken" is the James Beard Award-winning chef's new restaurant in Mount Dora. Allied with the Modernism Museum across the street from the restaurant, the menu will reflect modern Florida cuisine; a new look ingredients and culinary traditions that surround it.
"1921 by Norman Van Aken" in Mount Dora will open soon in a converted home that was built in downtown Mount Dora in 1921. The location is finishing major renovations and will be equipped with a state of the art kitchen and decor reflecting its partnership with The Modernism Museum. Modernist works by esteemed artists will be incorporated as living pieces that guests can see, and sometimes sit in, while dining.
The unique location in the heart of Florida will have strong influences from the diverse cuisines of Southern Florida, as well as Southern traditions from Northern Florida. Mount Dora is surrounded by numerous local farms and is equidistant from the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, it will access some of the best produce, meat, and seafood Florida has to offer. 1921 will also feature an exciting bar program and extensive wine list to rival any in the state.
Norman Van Aken, a culinary trailblazer known for introducing "fusion" into the culinary arts, is also widely considered “the founding father of New World Cuisine,” a celebration of American, Latin, Caribbean, Asian, and African flavors. He is currently the chef-owner of “NORMAN’S at the Ritz-Carlton, Grande Lakes, Orlando.
To say Van Aken's bio is impressive, is an understatement. He is the only Floridian inducted into the prestigious James Beard list of “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage". He was also honored as a semi-finalist for a James Beard Award “Best Chef in America, the culinary world's equivalent of an Oscar. In addition to the personal accolades, his restaurant, "Norman's" was also nominated as a finalist for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Restaurant in America”.
In addition to his aclaimed memoior, Van Aken has published five cookbooks with another title scheduled for 2016. He also had a radio show and has appeared on CNN, Anthony Bourdain and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
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Above: Chef Norman Van Aken. Below: Part of the renovations underway at new 4th Avenue location in downtown Mount Dora
Below images: Other portions of the 1921 building (pre-renovations)