A Parting at 1921

Norman Van Aken's affiliation with the restaurant has ended. Also, a chef's story of good works, and more Epcot fests.


According to my conversation with the James Beard Award-winning chef himself, Norman Van Aken is no longer affiliated with 1921, the Mount Dora restaurant he opened to much fanfare two years ago. The modern Floridian restaurant, now owned solely by Van Aken’s former partners, Ken Mazik and Donna Brown of commercial property corporation Main Street Leasing, is now called 1921 Mount Dora.

Further details have yet to be revealed, but the parting is said to be amicable. “I am immeasurably proud of the team that I was able to assemble,” Chef Norman said in a press release. The brilliant kitchen team, including chef de cuisine Camilo Velasco and pastry artist Gloriann Rivera, is expected to remain. 1921 was my pick for “Best Restaurant” in the 2017 Orlando magazine Dining Awards; Van Aken entered our Dining Hall of Fame in 2008.


High on my recommendation list for holiday gifts is the new book by soon-to-be-local presence, Jose Andres (Jaleo at Disney Springs), We Fed an Island. In this story of his endeavors in Puerto Rico four days after Hurricane Maria, Andres tells about cooking more than 100,000 meals in areas without power, gas or clean water, serving more meals than Salvation Army or Red  Cross in the area. His organization, World Central Kitchen, duplicated those efforts in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence, and has provided 150,000 meals in the Panhandle post-Hurricane Michael. The renowned chef is a hero in the true sense, with a fascinating story.


In the slow but steady progress toward national recognition for our superb food scene, local star Kathleen Blake of The Rusty Spoon was on the roster of celebrated chefs cooking for the 2018 James Beard Foundation Gala at the Pierre Hotel in NYC on November 9. The kitchen was filled with dynamos such as JBF Award Winner Jen Jasinski of Rioja in Denver; Amy Brandwein of DC’s Centrolina; and Top Chef participant Kwame Onwuachi from Kith and Kin in Washington. Blake and Brandwein collaborated on a Seminole pumpkin tortelloni with Amaretti dust and pumpkin brittle dish.


* Just when you thought you could get a break between Epcot’s small plate extravaganza of Food & Wine Fest and the equally snack-laden Flower and Garden Fest, January brings an expanded International Festival of the Holidays (November 18 to December 30). Offerings are inspired by Bavaria (sauerbraten, red cabbage and spätzle); Mexico (enchilada de pollo con mole); France (Napoléon de saumon fume); Morocco (confit of chermoula chicken drum); Japan (New Year celebration soba); Italy (cavatappi ai quattro formaggi); China (Celebration barbecue pork); Canada (seared salmon with Crown Royal whisky glaze); and a new L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen with pastrami on rye with house-made pickles and old-fashioned egg cream sodas. And don’t worry if you have other plans: The International Festival of the Arts begins two weeks later (Jan 18- Feb 25), with music, arts workshops and 13 “Food Studios.”

* After a brilliant pop-up Day of the Dead mashup between Hunger Street Tacos and Peruvian wizards Papa Llama, the food offerings at The Heavy continue to dazzle the alternate dining scene. The team at Hunger Street will offer weekly “Mexican omakase” dinners, a five-course chef’s choice offering of innovative dishes inspired by Chefs Joseph and David Creech, Bruno Fonseca and Albert DeSue. Heavy owners (they’re not heavy … you get the idea) Jenn and Eric Crotty tell me more food-oriented events are in the works, including a return by Papa Llama; and popups from Swine & Sons, Bangrak Thai Kitchen and Emmabean co-owner chef Jes Tantalo.

* Ramen Rumble returns to Baldwin Park on December 10 at Osprey Tavern. The popular event (last edition in 2016 sold WAY out), created by Tasty Chomps master Ricky Ly, puts the noodle-crafting talents of Yuhi Fujinaga (Executive Chef,‚Äč Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs), Kevin Kel Phanhvilay (Chef/Owner, Sticky Rice Lao Street Food) and Travis Cliff (Head Chef, Jade New Asian) to the test, and you decide the winner.

Be Merry and Bright! Explore new foods and new restaurants in the new year. And tell me what you find at joseph.hayes@orlandomagazine.com.  Access a comprehensive list of my print and online reviews here!



Categories: Savor Orlando