We believe it is our responsibility for keep our readers informed not only on the best restaurants in Jacksonville, but also the surrounding areas. Orlando is one of those focus areas because it offers numerous top restaurants and it’s only a short drive away. Some of the best in Orlando include AAA Four Diamond restaurants like A Land Remembered, Cala Bella, Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, and Primo. The final AAA Four Diamond restaurant in Orlando, which is called Norman’s (located inside the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes), may be the best out of the group. The restaurant’s namesake, Chef Norman Van Aken, is a renowned Floridian Chef and we excited to write that he is opening a new restaurant slightly closer to Jacksonville in Mount Dora. Chef Van Aken plans to name the restaurant 1921. The name of the restaurant references the year the building was constructed, which also appears on the front facade. The building used to house an English tea room called The Garden Gate, but Norman has been renovating the edifice both inside and out and plans to create a culinary destination in Mount Dora.
1921 has formed an alliance with the Modernism Museum in downtown Mount Dora and they plan to feature artwork from artists such as Dale Chihuly, Paul Evans, Wendell Castle, George Nakashima. These works of art will not be limited to only paintings. In fact, diners will apparently be able to sit in some of the modern works of art.
Regarding food, the menu will showcase Floridian cuisine from both south and north Florida. Many of the ingredients will be sourced from local farms and from the nearby coasts. Another focus of the restaurant is the wine and bar program in general. In fact, General Manager Scott Geisler says the restaurant will “feature an exciting bar program and very extensive wine list to rival any in the state”. Geisler has worked with Chef Norman in the past at Norman’s in Orlando as dining room manager and sommelier and he was also the General Manager at the excellent Ravenous Pig in Winter Park, FL. Joining Chef Norman and Geisler is Chef Camilo Velasco who will serve as the Chef de Cuisine at 1921. Chef Velasco has been working at Norman’s in Orlando with Chef Norman since he was 21 years old. According to Geisler, Chef Velasco has an excellent knowledge of wine and food pairings, so expect this to be evident on the menu. Given Geisler’s experience and the culinary expertise of Chefs Norman and Velasco, we are confident 1921 will not only meet, but exceed our already high expectations.
Chef Norman Van Aken is known worldwide as the originator of the concept of culinary “Fusion.” His signature flavor includes Asian, African, African, Latin, Caribbean, and American influences. Chef Norman is the only chef in Florida to be inducted into the James Beard “Who’s Who in American Food and Beverage” list and he was nominated for the James Beard “Best Chef in America.” The Orlando Sentinel also put him in the “Florida Hall of Fame.” He has written several books including his memoir No Experience Necessary…The Culinary Odyssey of Chef Norman Van Aken and Norman’s New World Cuisine.
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