Business Monday

In the kitchen with Norman Van Aken

Norman Van Aken, shown here, is opening a cooking school at the Vagabond Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami with chef and partner Candace Walsh.
Norman Van Aken, shown here, is opening a cooking school at the Vagabond Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami with chef and partner Candace Walsh. Miami Herald file, 2014

If you’ve ever dined at one of Norman Van Aken’s restaurants, then you’re probably salivating for the chance to cook with the master chef.

That could become a reality soon. Along with chef and partner Candace Walsh, Van Aken plans to open a new cooking school at the Vagabond Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. Their son, Justin Van Aken, will manage the school, which is aptly named In the Kitchen With Norman Van Aken. It is currently under construction and on the brink of opening.

“We’re at the mercy of the permitting process,” Norman Van Aken told the Miami Herald. “We could be in there as early as May.”

The founding father of Florida’s fusion cooking scene and one of the featured chefs in the U.S. Pavilion at the Food Expo in Milan last summer, Van Aken decided to open the school because he saw a need.

“The irony is now more than ever there is an interest in food — for sustainability, for health — and the skill set is lower than ever,” Walsh says.

“It will be a school like none other,” Van Aken says. “What we’re doing is creating a spectrum of classes for families from 7 years old to 97 years old.” He likens it to a gym membership, where individuals join for individual reasons. Similarly, people will have their own reasons for wanting to improve various aspects of their cooking.

The school will feature one kitchen with 16 work stations, where people can either get their hands deep into the process or sit back and learn from the masters. Class size will be limited to 16.

“They will cook with us,” Van Aken says, adding that in some instances participants will benefit more from a demonstration. “If we do whole animal butchery, we don’t expect lawyers and doctors to be doing that. It is going to be cutting-edge — everything from butchery to vegan to how to roast a Chinese duck.”

The courses will range from one to three hours and cost $75 to $125, Walsh says. They have conceived of more than 100 different classes, including ones for youths ages 5 to 15.

“Our goal is to get kids in the kitchen,” Walsh says. “Learning about cooking teaches generations to take care of themselves. This is a skill set that used to be taught in the home or schools.”

Van Aken intends to invite guest chefs to instruct the class in their areas of expertise. “I have a lot of friends that I can call up to teach.”

SIOBHAN MORRISSEY

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