Norman Van Aken has written four previous cookbooks, but few are as close to his heart as his newest My Key West Kitchen, which he wrote with his son to celebrate his adopted city. He isn’t originally from Key West, but it has in many ways shaped his life and his cooking. "I started cooking in Key West, and I’m originally from northern Illinois and Wisconsin, and in 1971 I got very tired of the cold, wintery weather and I went to Key West," he said.
When the Norman’s chef arrived in Key West, he was inspired by the vast flavors that had merged in the city, ranging from Cuban food to Haitian food. "We got the real deal, the real feeling of these ethnic flavors... and it totally created the template of my cuisine," he said.
The cookbook not only has dozens of recipes, ranging from Key Lime Pie to plantain soup, but each recipe also comes with a story. Van Aken felt that that piece of the book was not only necessary, but impossible to ignore: "The stories just flow out because when you’ve lived through them, they’re not just a collection of recipes, or a special where you did them in your restaurant, they all sort of have a connotation of the people who taught me the recipes" he said.
For more, watch the video above, and if you’re inspired to cook, pick up a copy of My Key West Kitchen.