Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cobaya Norman Van Aken at Three

Cobaya #74 went down a few months ago and yes this post is embarrassingly overdue.  Partly because I've had some unfortunate personal issues that have thwarted my ability to write about my love and enjoyment of food.  But in all sincerity, I really wasn't up to the challenge of writing about a local legend.   

       Image result for norman van aken three

Yes, it took us 74 underground and experimental dinners in Miami and just over 9 years to get the "founding father of new world cuisine" into the Cobaya kitchen.  

Cobaya dinners just happen.  A call or email  from a chef.  A random text from a PR rep and bam! A fantastic dinner is on the horizon.  Truth be told, Norman has been on the top of our list since we started this fun little experiment.  Timing is always key and we just never made it happen while he was running Tuyo with his long- time right-hand man, chef Jeffrey Brana and a rising star chef, Michael Beltran who entered the Cobaya Kitchen earlier this year.  But when he opened Three in Wynwood, we knew the time had come.  And it was truly an honor to have him cook for us.

I know when you ask local food fans about Norman the first words out of their mouths are usually legend and godfather of Miami cuisine.  But I think more importantly he was a pioneer, a chef with vision and a mentor to countless chefs.  Many of which have gone on to achieve success and fame on their own.  Most, if not all would probably give Norman credit, praise and thanks for guiding them through his exhausting kitchens and onto a culinary path of success.  

I actually started to write my recap of the delicious dinner the next day.  Writer's block set in.  How can my amateur writing do proper justice for someone so important to the Miami food scene?  He's not only witnessed its birth and growth but has continued to live it and still impressively remains at the forefront of this evolving and amazing food scene.  

As a result, I decided to reach out to chefs who could better explain his influence on not only the community as a whole but to them as well.  

What impact has Norman had on the local food scene?

Chef Michael Beltran, Ariete:

"Norman was doing this before everyone else was. Ask Teena's Pride who her first customers were and I bet she would say Norman was one of the first ones. He paved the way for chefs like myself to express ourself the way we do. That is quite the impact because if you look around the culinary scene in Miami is booming and a lot of that has to do with NVA." 

How has he influenced you personally as a chef?

Chef Beltran:

"I owe a whole lot to Norman, on a personal level when he offered me a job the second time I was in a really tough spot in my life and that job in a lot of ways saved my career. 

As a chef when it comes to food he helped me out of my shell. He challenged me to do more. He pushed me to another level, from how to cook to the books I read. He was a big influence in my life. These are just some of the reasons I am very thankful that he not only is a mentor but a friend."

Chef Nina Compton, Compare Lapin & Bywater American Bistro in New Orleans:

"Chef Norman inspired me so much. He opened my eyes, using humble ingredients that I had grown up with in the Caribbean and elevating them on the plate. On top of that, he is a genuinely caring man."

For Cobaya, Norman and his talented team at Three delivered a creative and delicious meal from start to finish.  Yes, Chef Brana was in the house as was his current chef de cuisine Juan Garrido along with Pastry Chef, Mame Sow.  Service was top notch and the wine pairing was thoughtful and enjoyable.  

If you haven't been to Three in Wynwood, I highly recommend paying them a visit.  Go sit at the kitchen counter where you have a front row seat to watch and interact with the hardworking and talented chefs. 

On a side note, Norman runs a cooking school adjacent to the restaurant called In The Kitchen with Norman which I am looking forward to visiting.  

As always, huge thanks to the Guinea Pig Nation for your continued interest, patience and support.  See you soon!

Chilled Lobster "Vuelve a la Vida", mezcal, avocado, jicama salad
Segura Viudas, Brut Rosé Cava, Spain

Barbeque'd Green Asparagus, smoked benne seed, summer lettuces, preserved citrus
Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko, Santorini, Greece

Wood-Grilled Foie Gras Shawarma, pineapple al pastor, shishito kosho yogurt
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand

Yellowedge Grouper Cooked in Seaweed, miso baked turnips, meyer lemon bonito butter
Granbazan Rias Baixas Albariño, Spain

Slow-Roasted Heritage Chicken: Hainanese Chicken Rice

Super Chicken Arepa, grilled corn butter, guasacaca
Brooks Willamette Winery Pinot Noir, Oregon

Tree of Life, baobab mousse, hibiscus curd, yogurt cake, honey-lavender cream
La Spinetta Moscato, Italy

The Guanaja, devil's food cake, guanaja cremeux, milk espuma, roasted white chocolate ice cream (missed the shot)
Morellino di Scansano, Sangiovese, Italy

50 NW 24th St
Miami, FL 33127