Lucky for me, Van Aken is here at the festival now to teach a few seminars. I attended his class on exotic fruit and peppered him with questions. What had moved him to cook that lush, spicy, and bright cuisine back in the dark, dreary food days? Turns out that Florida itself had done him in. "I was drinking a cup of coffee at Louie's, poring over French cookbooks, trying to figure out that night's specials, when I fell into a kind of trance," said Van Aken. Looking out over the water he spotted a fishing boat and began to daydream about where they were going and what they were going to catch and eat. Having just moved to Key West, this dreamy moment turned into an illuminating realization — he knew nothing of the local cuisine and ingredients. So Norman went on a tear. A mission. A journey. He ate at every local eatery, and it rocked him. "I decided that I had to drill down on these joints and distill and transpose this food so that it could be served at a white tablecloth restaurant — without apology," said Van Aken. What he started was a food revolution — one that we are still feeling the reverberations of over 25 years later.