From the street, it looks like a breezy high ceiling café with deep green walls and black and white photos of famous artists from the 60s. A bar serves up ocean-themed cocktails you can enjoy in plush black leather seats.
But step through a side door and you enter another world. One that’s cool and watery and takes you on a fantastic oceanic journey.
A coral tree sculpture sits in the middle of a dark room, while four tables are dotted with coral reef sculptures.
The lights go down and then the 360-degree 3D projected story starts at dusk on the water’s edge and moves into twilight, then morning, as the water level rises and suddenly sharks and manta rays and fish surround you in the room.
You can walk around the whole scene and find something new on the floor-to-ceiling screens at every turn. Crabs scuttle across the tables and floor. A shadow of a cruising shark finds you looking nervously overhead.
But all is not paradise here, just like in real life. Oh, no is that a plastic bag floating past?
It’s called Hidden Worlds and it’s actually hidden behind the café at Rudolf Budja Gallery in Miami Beach, an immersive digital projection mapping and sculptural and culinary voyage into coral reefs, oceans, and manatee-filled mangroves using state-of-the-art technology in a 30-minute show.
During the day you can just take in the half-hour deep dive, at night you can opt for the 3-hour, 8-course Ocean Positive dining special with sound and actors that serve up sustainable seafood and drinks.
The Ocean Positive meal includes animal-based proteins. Hidden Worlds says they “work with invasive species (such as lionfish) and with species overrunning oceanic ecosystems (such as purple sea urchin). Additionally, we use ingredients that support the livelihoods of marine environment protectors such as mangrove honey. Furthermore, our menu focuses heavily on oysters that support our oceans via water filtration. Of course, we also carry a vegan option for guests that follow a plant-based diet and only single-use plastic.”
Environmental activists Philippe Cousteau, grandson of legendary ocean conservationist and filmmaker Jacques Cousteau, and his wife Ashlan are the chief impact officers of this exhibit.
“My grandfather certainly was an extraordinary storyteller and that’s why we’re here today. He was always pushing the boundaries of what storytelling could be,” Philippe said. “It’s a whole new approach to ‘impactainment‘, Using new technology and immersive experience and food to engage people and make them fall in love with the ocean. Unlike edutainment, ImpactainmentTM focuses on emotions over facts as feelings are the main drivers of action. We build unique experiences that invoke empathy via emotionally compelling narratives.”
Miami is the debut city Hidden Worlds is launching at.
“We love Miami,” said Ashlan Cousteau. “We wanted to think of a place that really was close to the ocean, where people cared about the ocean, but also that’s facing some ecological disasters in its ocean. So, we thought Miami was a great place. It has great people and that’s why we’re here first.”
“So, the whole dining experience is immersive. You’re not just watching images on the wall that separates you from experience, you’re really seeing it come alive literally on your dinner plate,” said Philippe.
The menu by local executive chef Scott Linquist matches each course with a new environment.
“Our menu has been an incredible challenge for me as a chef because this presentation is all about ocean preservation, so I’ve been tasked to produce a menu that is using only fish and seafood that is ocean positive or invasive species which is very limited,” said Linquist.
The goal is to bring this hidden oceanic world to galleries around the country while bringing awareness to ocean conservation.
“So, this is a way to bring people under the water to bring them into the ocean and make them realize No. 1 how beautiful it is, No. 2 it’s in trouble, but there’s hope. We know how to fix these huge problems that our oceans and our planet are facing,” said Ashlan.
A portion of the proceeds will go to our ocean conservation partners so that every ticket sale generates an immediate and measurable impact.
Dinner is limited to 32 seats. Hidden Worlds is on display until June 25th.
For more info, visit ourhiddenworlds.com.
Take an undersea journey in Hidden Worlds