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ACE Inspiration: Sodexo Museum of Science and Industry, part 1

Mid-March, winners of the ACE awards took the stage at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. To enter, each contender was asked to identify the two events the company completed that it felt best represented the company, as well as challenges and favorite aspects.

Throughout the year, will profile the winners and nominees of the 2017 ACE awards. In the next installation of our series, we are placing a keen eye on Sodexo at the Museum of Science and Industry, who took the ACE award for Operations over $2 million in the East region.

Events • East region • Operations over $2 million • Sodexo at the Museum of Science and Industry

Palos Community Hospital Holiday Gala

For the Museum of Science and Industry, this special event happened during the most magical time of year, during the Holiday of Lights Celebration and Christmas Around the World exhibits, a perfect backdrop for a holiday party. This annual tradition began in 1942 with a single tree that honored the countries fighting alongside America during World War II. The tree was a wartime tribute to the Allies, but it also symbolized hope during the uncertain times. Today the exhibit features over 50 trees and displays decorated by volunteer organizations from different ethnic communities in Chicago. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a massive 45-foot-tall Grand Tree that takes center stage in the rotunda, decorated with over 30,000 twinkling lights. Community volunteers lend their time and knowledge to create this celebration of global celebrations. Since its first year, the display has certainly grown, but the spirit remains unchanged. It's what makes MSI the perfect place to tour a world of traditions during the holidays. Since this exhibit has been a holiday tradition at MSI for almost 75 years and provides such a magnificent setting for holiday parties, companies are able to shift their budget away from traditional holiday décor and toward the other aspects that make a their holiday celebration successful: upscale cuisine, festive cocktails, intelligent lighting solutions and interactive entertainment.


This event happened during the peak season of guest attendance at the Museum of Science and Industry, meaning that the museum was operating under extended hours, closing at 5:30 p.m. “Our team,” said Stan Hansen, Senior Marketing Specialist, “[had] only had an hour and a half to setup up the gala for 460 guests. This involved coordinating with the rental companies, floral companies, staffing agencies, internal security, linen providers, and our own catering staff with very detailed timelines and instructions.” All of this with less operating space given the 50+ trees amidst the historic rotunda in the Museum of Science and Industry.

Also, during this time of year, Hansen noted, the regular kitchen space was being used for holiday exhibits. “We could only kitchen out of a back hallway that was less than 15 feet wide. The cramped space and logistical challenges meant that we had to load in and load out under precise circumstances and every step had to be taken with extreme care.”

Parmesan crisp pinwheel, Boursin cheese, Reisling poached pear

Grilled filet mignon with peppercorn demi and pan seared sea bass with saffron herb buerre blanc, Yukon horseradish whipped potatoes, herb sautéed baby carrots

Gold dusted French macaroons

Favorite touches

Successfully executing an event like this, an upscale gala for a premier client at a historic venue, requires supreme attention to detail and clear communication. There is only one way to achieve this: remarkable teamwork between 10 teams and about 100 people.

“Given our previous two days’ worth of events on top of this, there was no room for error with even the slightest detail. It was through this amazing teamwork that we were able to achieve flawless results for a very satisfied client,” said Hansen.

Seared blue crab cake with citrus aioli

In order to retain its reputation as a leader in the special event industry in Chicago, Sodexo continually pushes the boundaries of what is possible for menu execution. Said Hansen, “We had a unique opportunity to create a dramatic flair with our served butternut squash and apple soup. Because of the 50 trees and the four-story tall Grand Tree taking up valuable real estate space, we had less room to operate for our standard service. This meant we had to get creative with our soup service. We could not risk servers taking out full trays per table of hot soup. Instead, we had the accoutrements of the soup: seasonal spiced fruit and walnuts, set in the bowl and had servers take elegant individual carafes to each table and fill the soup bowl at each place setting right in front of the guests.”

Next week on Sodexo at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Cardinal Health Customer Appreciation Event

Kathleen Stoehr

Kathleen Stoehr is the publisher and executive editor for Catersource magazine as well as all of its digital products. 



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