By Solange Reyner
Emeril’s on this Saturday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center and tix are still available. We caught up with Chef Norman Van Aken, Emeril’s long time buddy, who will take on the role of interviewer on set. Van Aken is set to open his new restaurant Norman-180 in the coming months. It strays from his first endeavor, Norman’s in Coral Gables, by focusing more on the blue jean and flannel crowd.
- Q: How far back do you and Emeril go?
Norman: We’ve been friends for 21 years. We first met in 1988 at the Santa Fe Symposium and we began to engineer gigs to do work together – it was really fun. This predates all the fame before the Food Network.
- Q: Now that you see him on stage all the time, what surprises you the most?
Norman: How engagins he is. Initially, he said he didn’t want to talk in front of people. He had this very thick accent, and he said he was just too nervous to get up in front of a big crowd. But he did it and the rest is history.
- Q: What about competitiveness? Were there many heated discussions between you two?
Norman: No. The bond between us illustrates that there can be great camaraderie. When you get to a certain level of performance in any field, you realize that people want to do great things. So we’ve always been on the same page, helping each other out. Emeril and I talked a lot before I opened up Norman’s – he gave me a lot of insight to the business side. He was really generous with inside info.
- Q: We know of Norman’s in Coral Gables, what’s this new restaurant going to entail?
Norman: I’m going back to some earlier roots and it will be a more casual version of Norman’s. I like rustic food and street foods. We’re thinking wooden tables, open bar, and live and local bands.
- Q: And the food?
Norman: Flat bread pieces, fried green tomatoes, steamed manila clams with kaboche potstickers, ceviches with tiraeitos, pastas, classic fried chicken and homestead corn mexican style. We’re still narrowing down some other specifics.