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Theme park cuisine is synonymous with junk food. Think again. After Orlando's SeaWorld hired TV celebrity chef, Lenny Martinsen, he sent the culinary paradigm to the sharks.

In his upscale restaurant, Sharks Underwater Grill, groups dine eye-to-eye with 50 toothy denizens in a floor-to-ceiling 2.5 million-litre habitat. His Floribbean cuisine blends Florida and Caribbean ingredients like oak-grilled filet mignon with jerk-seasoned demi-glace and sautéed Gulf shrimp with plantain mash and corn pepper relish.

Fabulous food

"The food was outstanding," says Alison Archambault, executive assistant to the president at 1st Calgary Savings, about the dinner she organized for 80 Credit Union executives, spouses and dignitaries. "Our group had several high-end dinners throughout their conference. To this day, they're still commenting that this was their favourite."

Delegates were impressed with both the "substantial portions and quality" of the food, and the presentation. "The salad was stacked like a pillar and the surf and turf and caged white chocolate mousse had lots of colour. The chef happily accommodated vegetarians and some really distinct allergies."

During or after park hours, planners can choose either the private dining room (up to 92 people) or the tiered main dining room (up to 142). Both can be reserved for breakfast or after park hours.

Shark swims in tank.
Shark swims in tank.
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Close encounters of the shark kind

"Staff positioned tables so everyone had direct sight of the tank," says Archambault. "Sharks swim right up to the wall, which emanates light into the darkened room. Our delegates liked the sea-depth music and the SeaWorld educator who answered questions about the sharks and explained their behaviour.

Organizers can combine meals with other activities. "We had a reception in the false killer whale enclosure, an exotic bird event and a shark exhibit tour — all high-quality experiences for a very economical rate." (Daring delegates can plunge into the sharks' underwater lair in a cage, in the park's Sharks Deep Dive programme.)

Organization was painless, according to Archambault. "I called the Sales and Convention number on SeaWorld's Web page. They did everything." Her advice to planners? "Give them your budget and they will work with it to make your evening special."


SeaWorld Orlando: www.seaworld.com

More things to see and do in SeaWorld Parks:

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay - Caring for Baby Animals

Antarctic Penguins - SeaWorld Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego