Food

Norman Van Aken is out at Wynwood restaurant Three. Here’s what’s next for both

La Ventanita: Norman Van Aken discusses how Cuban food in Key West shaped his career

Key West was a huge influence on chef Norman Van Aken, who became one of the great innovators in American cuisine. He discussed hitchhiking from the Midwest over Cuban coffee, pastelitos and croquetas.
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Key West was a huge influence on chef Norman Van Aken, who became one of the great innovators in American cuisine. He discussed hitchhiking from the Midwest over Cuban coffee, pastelitos and croquetas.

Three was the restaurant that welcomed Norman Van Aken back to South Florida, but it appears the James Beard award-winning chef has other plans.

Van Aken is no longer a partner at the Wynwood restaurant Three, where he is also a partner at the cooking school In the Kitchen with Norman Van Aken. However, it was not a clean (or antagonistic) split from Three’s ownership.

Van Aken will continue to run two concepts with Three’s owners in the new Time Out Market in South Beach. K’West is a return to Van Aken’s Key West-inspired roots and Beach Pie is the market’s exclusive pizza shop.

Separately, Van Aken signed on in March to rescue Ad Lib, which fired former chef Jamie DeRosa after a quick two months. Van Aken took over as chef-partner at the new restaurant, which replaced Swine in Coral Gables, the city where Van Aken was first noted locally and nationally for high-end cuisine at Norman’s.

“I’m happy to be back in Coral Gables and a market I’m much more familiar with,” Van Aken said by phone.

Van Aken will start his own collaborative chef series at Ad Lib, he said, where the restaurant’s pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith, also is a James Beard award nominee.

Three says it has a plan. It begins a chef-in-residency program in July as a patch to being without an executive chef. The first in this rotating chefs series is Ari Taymor, twice named a James Beard Rising Star Chef finalist for his one-time Los Angeles restaurant Alma, which was named the 2013 Bon Appetit Best New Restaurant in America.

Chef Ari Headshot.jpg

Three will no longer have a fixed-price menu, the restaurant’s hallmark since it opened. Instead Taymor’s a-la-carte menu hopes to have a West Coast flair. Van Aken remains a 50-50 partner in the cooking school, though Taymor will teach several classes there.

“The menu for my chef-in-residency is inspired both by my roots as a chef in Southern California, and the vibrancy of summer in South Florida,” Taymor wrote in a release. “Both places are melting pot cities filled with diverse landscapes and people and I’m very excited to bring a little of the West Coast to Miami.”

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Miami Herald food editor Carlos Frías won the 2018 James Beard award for excellence in covering the food industry. A Miami native, he’s also the author of “Take Me With You: A Secret Search for Family in a Forbidden Cuba.”

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