La Ventanita: Norman Van Aken discusses how Cuban food in Key West shaped his career
Ad Lib is starting to stand for “revolving door” rather than “off the cuff.”
After five months, chef/partner Norman Van Aken, who signed on to replace the hastily ousted original chef/partner Jamie DeRosa, is out as chef/partner of 50 Eggs’ ambitious Coral Gables restaurant.
Van Aken’s departure comes on the heels of the high-profile departure of the nationally recognized pastry chef, Hedy Goldsmith, who left in June.
Less than a year after the group closed the popular and supposedly profitable Swine, they have turned over all the major names in what was supposed to be a dream team of chefs for a new, high-concept restaurant.
“I was hired to consult on a project for 50 Eggs. As a chef that has been part of South Florida’s culinary DNA for so long, and having mentored so many chefs in the city, it felt like it would be an exciting project,” Van Aken said. “I enjoyed my time spent at Ad Lib — returning to Coral Gables and catching up with some of my old clientele brought back great memories.”
Van Aken recently closed his eponymous Orlando restaurant when the Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes decide not to renew its lease. Earlier in June, Van Aken left the partnership he had at Wynwood restaurant Three.
Van Aken is shifting his focus from Coral Gables to Central Florida, where he plans to open Norman’s in a new location.
“I wish them the best of luck. I am turning my efforts towards the newly developing namesake restaurant in Orlando with great excitement,” he said.
50 Eggs hopes to see Van Aken again in some capacity, according to the official company statement:
“We have always admired Chef Norman’s culinary strength. He is a founding father of food in so many ways, and for our project in Coral Gables there was no better fit. He was brought on to consult for the brand and assist with the onboarding of some new kitchen staff. We are pleased with the outcome and hope to collaborate on other projects with Norman in the future.”