Idea Book: Museum of Science & Industry (Sodexo) ACE Winner

The Achievement in Catering & Events (ACE) awards honor those who have worked tirelessly to keep their clients thrilled and their companies on the cutting edge. Each year, caterers and event planners from around the globe submit their best work from the past year in hopes of being recognized as the best in the industry. Catersource’s annual awards show, also including the ICA CATIE awards, took place in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace on February 19, 2018.

Each company submitted two events for ACE consideration. Here is a look at the two events that elevated Museum of Science & Industry (Sodexo) in the category of Events over $2 million in revenue.

Photos courtesy of Sodexo

ONE: Columbian Ball

The Columbian Ball is the Museum of Science and Industry’s premier annual benefit attracting up to 1,000 guests from the city of Chicago’s most prestigious businesses, cultural, and philanthropic circles. Held in the halls of the 1893 Columbian Exposition’s Palace of Fine Arts, MSI pays homage to its history as the only remaining building on the iconic White City world’s fairgrounds. The 2017 Columbian Ball’s theme and décor inspiration was a contrast to the prior year’s historic presence: instead, it was framed as a contemporary, modern benefit with gilded touches that reflect the Columbian era.

Columbian Ball table setting. The rich wine-velvet table linens were complemented by the modernized ‘ghost’ chair for dining tables in the Rotunda.

VIP kings’ tables featured centerpieces of Edison bulbs suspended by glass towers.

The Columbian Ball is one of only two annual events in which the Museum invites outside bids from off-premise caterers and event production companies. As the Museum’s on-site preferred caterer, Sodexo knew it had to present its most innovative and exciting concepts along with the city’s premier special event organizations. Our proposal featured Kehoe Designs as the décor partner. As a nationally recognized company, Kehoe Designs has elevated the standard of excellence in event décor in Chicago for more than 20 years.

“We were awarded the 2017 Columbian Ball contract based on the inventive menu, forward-thinking décor design, and our ability to translate the Museum’s mission and history in to a stylish and elegant fundraiser that would keep guests buzzing until next year,” said Stan Hansen, Senior Marketing Specialist for Sodexo.

The entry hall

Different than in years past, all 1,000 guests had to enter through the entry hall of the Museum, a vast, open space just past the parking garage of the Museum. Flanked on the east side by a ticketing counter and a retail souvenir shop on the west, transforming the space from a retail, functional environment into an elegant focal point that would inspire awe was a big challenge.

Futuristic gold Chanel-inspired chandeliers adorned the spacious Entry Hall with stunning 22-foot-tall silhouettes of the city skyline shimmering in sea of light.

Additionally, noted Hansen, the space would also be the after-hours location, meaning the team would have to flip the space to include a stage for DJs.

The objective for the 2017 menu development was to challenge the long-established menu tradition of Southern flair. Executive Chef Brad Bussen’s vision for this event was avant-garde cuisine, stylistically designed while still honoring the traditional items favored by the audience in year’s past.

The “24 carrot” salad boasted herb-roasted Thumbelina carrots and heirloom baby beets, hydro-greens, marcona almonds, Humboldt fog, and watermelon basil vinaigrette

The entrée was prefaced with an earthy amuse bouche of saffron lobster bisque and crème fraiche.

The dual entrée tower of 14-hour applewood-smoked short rib with sustainably caught red snapper were supported by a bed of creamy taleggio polenta and Louisiana bouillabaisse with flash-sautéed spinach.

Interested in submitting an entry for the 2019 awards season? Entries into ACE’s 2019 award program are now open!

Click here for the latest information on the 2019 conference & tradeshow.

TWO: Black Creativity

The 2017 Black Creativity Gala is influenced by the Museum’s commitment to inspire the creative and inventive genius in everyone. Named for the charitable division of the Museum of Science and Industry, Black Creativity is dedicated to serving the underprivileged African-American community.

The theme of the event was Art + Innovation, and Sodexo’s accepted proposal allowed the team to creatively express its culinary expertise, visionary and innovative design, and flawless event execution.

A cutting edge design for the event was necessary to elevate the décor beyond past years’ events. “For example, we chose not to cover buffet tables with traditional linen, but rather highlight the natural materials of the buffet tables,” said Stan Hansen, Senior Marketing Specialist for Sodexo. “This meant that the buffet tables had to shine and showcase the cuisine the entire evening. Every drip, drop, and spec of food from a guest’s plate would stand out on the buffet tables. Hiding these elements in the fluff and folds of linen was no longer an option. We overcame this aspect with supreme service execution as well as an acute attention to detail from captains and the Sodexo management team.”

Each station highlighted a different theme; from New Orleans-inspired faire to “Haute South” high end cuisine to scratch-made classic soul food recipes. Here’s a look at this award-winning event.

Liquid nitrogen flash frozen ice cream was featured in three flavors, buttermilk vanilla bean, bourbon pecan pie and apple butter sorbet

Oxtail pot pie was featured in the “Scratch-made Soul” station

Butternut squash mousse with maple candied pecans

Other desserts included cobbler push pops in cherry, Georgia peach, and country apple; and small plates of banana bread pudding with caramel-toffee crème anglaise

Click here for information about Catersource and the Art of Catering Food 2019. Registration is now open!

Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the Director of Community & Content Strategy for Catersource, which includes print and digital content, as well as live education at both Catersource, the Art of Catering Food, and Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit.