Despite my gourmand experiences with varied cuisines and endless travels, it’s a rare occasion, when the entire evening – each bite, every sip, is impeccably flawless, that even I am rendered speechless. THE highlight of 2014 incontestably for me was the elegant reception Chef Norman hosted in honor of his dear friend and brother, the late chef extraordinaire and famed cookbook author and incredible humanitarian Chef Charlie Trotter. Oh Yeah! Chef Norman knows how to throw a party……
A brief background regarding Chef Norman and the Trotter Project.
Chef Norman Van Aken has been described as ‘legendary, visionary and a trailblazer’ as well as ‘the culinary Titan of Florida.’ He is “the founding father of New World Cuisine,” also known internationally for introducing the concept of “Fusion” to the culinary world. He is the Chef and Founder of “NORMAN’S“ at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, Grande Lakes, a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, Asian, African and American flavors.
For those of you who didn’t have the privilege of dining at Eponymous Chicago restaurant, considered one of the finest in the world. Chef Trotter was named the country’s Outstanding Chef by James Beard Foundation in 1999; in 2000, Wine Spectator magazine called Trotter’s the best restaurant in the nation and many more accolades and awards followed subsequently.
The Trotter Project: Chef Charlie Trotter’s vision and values inspired thousands of alumni, guests, family and friends. In the spirit of giving back, The Trotter Project is creating a series of charitable initiatives and programs centered around the culinary arts, service, education and excellence. For more details on the Trotter Project, kindly click HERE. This dazzling reception held in December at Norman’s Restaurant raised $8,300 for the organization. Ms. Anne Trotter Hinkamp, chef Charlie’s sister flew down from Chicago to attend this splendid event.
A Standing ovation to Chef Norman, his entire team, and all Central Florida’s illustrious Chefs who magnanimously contributed their time, skill, and decadent creations that evening.
Joining Chef Norman were chefs: Andres Mendoza, Norman’s; Kevin Fonzo, K; Greg Richie, Soco; Kathleen Blake, Rusty Spoon; John Rivers, 4 Rivers Smokehouse; James and Julie Petrakis, The Ravenous Pig; Tim Keating, Flying Fish Cafe; Scott Hunnel, Victoria & Albert’s; Ryan Vargas, Emeril’s Tchoup Chop; Hari Pulapaka, Cress; David Serus, Ritz-Carlton; Brandon McGlamery, Luma on Park; Jerome Bocuse, Monsieur Paul; Stephane Cheramy, Ritz-Carlton, and Greg Baker, The Refinery (Tampa).
To make the evening even more memorable, the wines were paired exquisitely by Master Sommeliers: George Miliotes (Clarendon Hills Granache, Australia), Brian Koziol (Walter Hansel Estate Chardonnay, Sonoma), Laura DePasquale (Tolanini Valdisanti Cabernet Blend, Italy), John Blazon (Galerie Naissance Sauvignon Blanc, Napa), and Eric Hemer (Champagne Laurent-Perrier Demi Sec, France).
Patron Tequila, Russian Standard Vodka, MaCallan 12 year scotch, Remy Martin Cognac, Eagle Rare Bourbon, and Brugal Rhum flowed freely throughout the evening too.
As exciting as the wines and liquors poured, the star of the evening undoubtedly were the brilliant, irresistible creations, inspired by local seasonal produce by our Central Florida Chefs. From Hog’s Head Crostini, Umami-laced Spiny Lobster (absolutely delightful), Tuna, Ahi Poke, Rabbit and Black Trumpet Mushroom Boudin, Central Florida Surf n Turf, Slow Roasted Barbecued Pork Belly, Stone Crab and Tobacco Cured Mullet, Swordfish Tartare, Scotched Quail Eggs, Crispy Veal Sweetbreads with Morels (another favorite), Chestnut Brown Butter Stuffed Chicken Wing-Bay Scallop; it was an evening of indulgent and sensational food and wine combinations.
The food stations comprised of Caviar, Key West Pink Shrimp Ceviche, Australian Waygu Ribeye (drooling), Chilled Seafood, Florida Cobia with Winter Truffles (orgasmic), Whole Roast Pig by Chef John Rivers. To top it off an entire room was dedicated to an mind boggling array of delightful dessert creations by Chef Stephane (Ritz-Carlton) and Chef Jose (Norman’s).
Each dish was exquisitely created and meticulously presented, that said, the popular station of the evening was the Oysters, Caviar, and Stone Crab table – decadent and super fresh!!!
Here is a brief photo synopsis courtesy of Orlando Dine and The Primlani Kitchen.
I have dined and wined at Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton on a number of occasions. From the moment you step out of your car at the Ritz Carlton till you leave Norman’s – it’s a millage, smiling faces, impeccable service, perfect presentation, delicious food, stellar wines, and all in all an evening to remember. The service at Norman’s under the keen eye of Mr. Yusuf Yildiz (GM) is incontestably one of the finest I have had the pleasure of experiencing. And Chef Charlie Trotter’s reception service was nothing short of perfection.
The Tribute to Chef Charlie Trotter reception is etched in our foodie soul for years to come…….So proud and touched by Central Florida’s culinary minds, who not only are exceptionally skilled, they boast hearts of gold and humble souls……
Mille Grazie (thousand thanks) to each and everyone who assisted in making The Tribute to Charlie Trotter the most spectacular gourmet event of 2014.