Red Lobster is well-known for the seafood dinners that gave the restaurant its name. Serving up the marine crustaceans cooked in just about every preparation imaginable, the most important ingredient in the chain restaurant's kitchens is, of course, fresh lobster.
But this week, the team at a Hollywood, Fla. Red Lobster found a lobster in their food shipment that stopped them in their tracks: a one-in-30-million crustacean, now affectionately known as Cheddar.
"Sometimes ordinary miracles happen, and Cheddar is one of them," said Mario Roque, a manager at the Florida Red Lobster, who led Cheddar's rescue.
While most lobsters have a dark exterior — with hues of mainly browns and greys and some undertones of red — Cheddar is a bright orange color. Since their bold coloring makes them attractive to predators, these unique lobsters rarely survive in the wild. As soon as the team at Red Lobster spotted this marvel, they went to work trying to keep her off the dinner plate, searching for a place where she could be safe and shared with the world instead.
"A group of incredible people helped us make this possible," says Roque, who spearheaded the saving of the lobster, with assistance from his team and the staff of Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach.
According to Sabrina Sieck, the senior creative content manager for Ripley Entertainment, getting Cheddar to her new home was one shell of a process. "Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach sent two members of our husbandry team to the South Florida restaurant," she says, "where they carefully packed up Cheddar and drove her to the Ripley's Marine Science Research Center in Myrtle Beach, our state-of-the-art quarantine and research facility, where she is currently acclimating and will stay for a bit."
Starting on July 20, this Ripley's location will be open to the public for one-hour tours. During their tour, visitors will learn about the aquarium with a senior husbandry team member, who will share more about its scientific research, animal care and conservation efforts. And, guests may even catch a glimpse of Cheddar before she heads off to her new home.
Once her time at the research center is complete, Cheddar, who was named after the classic Red Lobster treat, Cheddar Bay Biscuits, will be moved to Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach.
This isn't the first time the Ripley's team has offered a home to a crustacean with a peculiar shell. "Other uncommon [lobster shell] colors occur as well," says Sieck. "In fact, just last week, a blue lobster was caught off the coast of Portland, Maine. While blue lobsters are one-in-two-million, orange lobsters, like Cheddar, are one-in-30-million: Very rare, but Ripley's Aquarium of Canada had a similar rescue last year."
According to the husbandry team at Ripley's, Cheddar's vibrant shell is caused by a genetic mutation that causes a lobster to produce more of a particular protein than other lobsters, giving it its bright orange hue.
As one of the world's largest seafood purchasers, Red Lobster has a deep commitment to seafood sustainability and knew it had a duty to protect this very special lobster as part of its efforts to preserve the world's oceans.
"We are so honored to have been able to save Cheddar and find her a good home," says Roque.
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