Shedd Aquarium’s splashy event showcases Sodexo Live! chefs’ Latin American heritage

Celebrating the diverse community in the kitchen, The Ritmo del Mar (Rhythm of the Sea) event returns for a second year with vibrant music, culture and culinary traditions and techniques that allow guests to taste the ocean of flavor.
ceviche for Ritmo del Mar
Ritmo del Mar featured several dishes from SodexoLive! chefs that reflected their heritage. | Photos courtesy of Sodexo Live!

Latin America includes many places and cultures, from Puerto Rico to Mexico to South America. The Caribbean Sea is the fluid commonality between these diverse regions, making Sodexo Live!’s Ritmo del Mar (Rhythm of the Sea) after-hours event perfect for Chicago’s world-renowned Shedd Aquarium.

In its second year, Ritmo del Mar brings together several Sodexo Live! chefs and the food that connects them to their roots.

“While creating the Ritmo del Mar menu, I wanted to ensure that I kept it traditional, from the ingredients to the technique,” says Sodexo Live! Executive Sous Chef at the Shedd Aquarium Anna Gutherie, who spearheaded the event and worked with three other chefs to make sure the event was a big splash, but also authentic as possible.

Chef Jose Cabrera, originally from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, created Chile Relleno de Molida con Mole; Chef Victor Calzadilla, a Venezuelan chef who studied at the Hotel Escuela de Los Andes Venezolanos University, created Pollo Reina Pepiada Arepas & Frijoles Negro Arepas with Avocado; and Chef Jose Cruz, originally from Puerto Rico, created Classic Puerto Rican Mofongo, Camarones en Salsa Roja.

Supported by Sodexo Live! Regional Executive Chef Brad Bussen and culinary team, the menu also featured specialty cocktails like the Mezcal Paloma, small bites like Peruvian pisco ceviche and desserts including locally made nopal sorbet, cinnamon churros and more.

chile relleno with pomegranate seeds

Chef Cabreras chile relleno with the vibrant twist of pomegranate seeds. 

Gutherie made sure each ingredient got the attention it deserved to bring real flavors and colors. “Take the fruit cup with lime and Tajin seasoning, for example,” she says. “It is commonly found in street food in Mexican cities like Guadalajara. I wanted to ensure the fruits, such as dragon fruit and papaya, are colorful, fresh and in-season. The overall Ritmo del Mar menu is created with color in mind, sourced from local suppliers in places like Pilsen (a Chicago neighborhood), and incorporates a lot of floral and seasonal fruit to represent the vibrant essence of the culture and enhance the flavors.”

Communal culinary memories and vibes were baked into the dishes, as well. Cabrera’s chile relleno, for example, holds a special place in Gutherie’s heart, she says. “It takes me back to moments spent in the kitchen with my partner’s mother, who is from Mexico. I remember watching her expertly prepare this dish, delicately battering egg whites and dipping the chiles. This culinary tradition isn’t just a recipe; it’s a piece of family heritage, passed down through generations and evolving in each household it touches.”

Cabrera and Gutherie added their own twist to the classic dish while paying homage: “Inspired by the variations we’ve encountered in different households, Chepe (Jose) and I have infused the dish and decided to use whole eggs instead of just whites or yolks. To elevate the dish even further, we introduced pomegranate seeds, not only for their vibrant color but also to bring the taste of spring.”

Chef Cruz's authentic Puerto Rican mofongo

Chef Cruz's authentic Puerto Rican mofongo.

Another example, Argentine Brisket, Vacio Asado Steak with Chimichurri and Fresh Salad, zooms in on the chimichurri, an herbaceous, meat-loving South American condiment that chefs love for its verdant vibes. “One of my best friends in Colorado, who is from Argentina, used to make chimichurri and roast it over an open fire—herby and garlicky,” Gutherie says. “The slow-roasting process is time-consuming, but brings friends and family together. This is the sense of warmth I aim for our guests to experience.”

pollo arepas

Chef Calzadilla's pollo arepas.

Up next, Gutherie is “most excited about the upcoming Jazzin event” at the Shedd. “Just like with Ritmo del Mar, I aim to craft a menu that represents the diverse community in our kitchen, reflecting their cultures and heritages,” she says. “We often share homemade dishes with each other, ranging from soul food to classic Chicago cuisine. My goal is to represent everyone to the best of my ability and create dishes that bring joy to our team members, allowing them to shine through their culinary creations.”



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