Cooking with Norman Van Aken was a thrill and you can too!

For a while now, I’ve been very excited to see Chef Norman Van Aken back on the Miami food scene. Love his Three at Wynwood Arcade where I enjoyed a wonderful lunch a few months back. Imagine my excitement then, to cook with Van Aken himself!

I’m all smiles with Chef Norman Van Aken.

That’s what you can do too at In The Kitchen with Norman Van Aken, a new cooking school concept within the Wynwood Arcade complex in a space next door to Three.

The description reads: “A culinary school dedicated to inspiring the Miami community, as well as visitors from near and far, to enjoy all aspects of food and cooking. In The Kitchen With Norman Van Aken is for enthusiasts of all levels.”

And that’s exactly what this state-of-the-art open kitchen offers. There’s every cooking tool imaginable at your fingertips and individual working stations with cooktops with plenty of counter space to make culinary magic.

Jeffrey Brana and Candace Walsh

The night we cooked with him, Van Aken was joined by his Partner and In The Kitchen Co-Founder Candace Walsh, who he met through developer Avra Jain and General Manager Jeffrey Brana who has worked with him in various capacities for more than 20 years.

See originally, Van Aken was thinking of opening the school on Biscayne Boulevard where Jain has been leading a major overhaul of hotels. That’s how the two met and Jain then suggested Chef Van Aken approach her friend Candace Walsh. Van Aken and Walsh then joined forces to create the cooking school.

Rum runner

Before we began cooking that night, Chef Van Aken took us on a journey of his more than 30 decade career. As we listened, we enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and glasses of both 90 Miles to Cuba Rum Runners and wine.

Key West pink shrimp

 

Artichoke fritters

It was hard to pass up reaching for trays of Key West Pink Shrimp in Salsa of Life, Gordon’s Artichoke Fritters and Corny Corn Dogs with Cadillac Mustard from No. 3 Social.

Then it came time to pay close attention as ingredients were brought to our stations and instructions were given. The class was themed “My Key West Kitchen” and we prepared Conch Salad, Man! and Wild Mushrooms on Brioche with Sherry Cream and Serrano Ham.

Conch salad ready to be combined.

 

Prep station for wild mushroom dish.

The story behind the conch salad was one of those fun anecdotes that create a lasting memory. Turns out, Chef Van Aken knew the gentleman known as Conch Salad Man in Key West who sold the salad at Mallory Square. Us preparing it that evening was an homage to him.

Finished conch salad

 

Wild mushroom dish ready to be enjoyed.

Although all was prepped for us, ingredients perfectly diced the same size and juices and sauces measured out exactly, in the regular cooking classes (ours was an introduction to the school so we did minimal work, just a bit of reducing, stirring and seasoning), participants at classes create meals from start to finish.

There are several classes already scheduled through July however, there’s something very unique about Van Aken’s approach to creating the schedule of classes.

“We’re going to look to the community to expand on our classes. It will be a living thing, not just what is up on our website,” said Chef Van Aken. “I like to call it the continuing education of Norman Van Aken.

It was truly a thrill to cook in Chef Van Aken’s kitchen with him at the helm and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future of this “living” cooking school.

In The Kitchen with Norman Van Aken, Wynwood Arcade, 50 NW 24 St., Ste. 113

 

 

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