Shumu Adem, an Ethiopian refugee, on cooking at Lucas Oil Stadium

Shumu is currently the executive chef of Lucas Oil Stadium. (Photo: Shumu Adem)

In the late ’70s, political strife known as the Red Terror devastated Ethiopia. In 1974, the emperor was overthrown and the military staged an coup to consolidate power. Chef Shimelis “Shumu”Adem is still able to recall the horrors of that time.

While no one knows for sure how many people were detained, tortured and murdered during the strife between warring political parties, estimates are in the hundreds of thousands — including a minimum of 10,000 in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, alone.

Refugees began to flood from Ethiopia into neighboring countries such as Somalia, Kenya, and Djibouti. Adem, who claims that he was a “very young age”At the time, he was one of them and fled after witnessing his friends’ arrests and detentions.

The Indiana Convention Center’s senior executive chef is now available. Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts, Adem recalls walking with a friend from their home in Addis Ababa to the Djiboutian border — any other form of transportation was out of the question due to checkpoints. They found refuge in a French convent after they reached Djibouti.

Chef Adem with two Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders. (Photo: Shumu Adem)

Chef Adem is pictured with two Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders. (Photo: Shumu Adem)

“The Djiboutian government was not allowing refugees at the time,” Adem tells Yahoo Life. “So we stayed in the convent and worked to say ‘thank you’ and help the nuns who were helping us. The nuns asked if I would help in the kitchen, and that’s where I learned to cook.”

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Adem had never even been to a kitchen before his time at the convent. “In Ethiopia, men are not allowed in the kitchen as it’s the woman’s domain,”He explains. “But I’d always been curious about how all the delicious food I ate growing up came to be. I started doing the prep in the kitchen and learned more and more as time went on.”

Adem credits his time in the convent’s kitchen with giving him the foundation for his culinary career — a profession that’s taken him far and wide.

Adem’s companion left the convent but he remained for three and a quarter years, learning English, French, and apprenticing in kitchen. President Jimmy Carter signed The Refugee Act of 1980Adem applied for asylum that year and was granted asylum.

He moved to Philadelphia to begin his journey. He speaks fluent Italian but is still not fluent. “broken English with a British accent,”Chef Adem found an Italian restaurant in which he felt at ease communicating and learning more about American terminology and English language. Over the next 25 year, he worked in many different kitchens: small and large; casual and fine dining; boutique and high volume.

“I was always looking for something bigger and better,”He says. “I came to this land of opportunity and I kept looking for a challenge.”

He found it as executive sous-chef at Philadelphia Convention Center, where more than 5,000 people were served daily. He also received his ProChef Certification level 3 from the Culinary Institute of America.

After working with Sodexo LiveAdem was an executive chef at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Baltimore Convention Center. He also managed major events and sporting venues. Adem was also called about the opening of Lucas Oil Stadium. “It was a great opportunity,”He says. “I didn’t even think twice. I packed up and moved to Indianapolis and it has been an incredible journey this company has taken me on.”

Adem believes food is the main draw at Lucas Oil Stadium. He puts all of his passion into creating delicious meals. Delicious menus that will please guestsWhile they cheer on the Colts. This year’s menu includes ingredients from Indiana like corn and pork. Adem also created two dishes in collaboration with a Colts linebacker. Darius LeonardDefensive tackle Grover Stewart.

“Each year we strive to bring new ideas to our fans,”Stephanie Pemberton is vice president of marketing at the Indianapolis Colts. “And these are dishes you can’t find anywhere else. It’s just another way to tap into the power of the Horseshoe.”

Leonard and Adem created a dish that gives back: the Maniac Burger of the Game. It will rotate for each Colts home match and be themed to the local food. The burger will come with pickles, crispy tobacco onion, and Nashville hot sauce when the Colts face the Tennessee Titans. Houston Texans are coming to play. Smoked brisket, thick-sliced onion rings, and a provolone-topped hamburger will be served. Proceeds from the burgers will be donated to Maniac FoundationLeonard and his wife, a couple who are committed to improving communities, founded in 2020.

Adem and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard created a dish that gives back, the Maniac Burger of the Game, which will rotate for each Colts home game and be themed to the signature food in the opposing team's city.(Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)

Adem and Colts linebacker Darius Leonard have created a dish that gives back: the Maniac Burger of the Game. It will rotate for each Colts home match and will be themed to the city’s signature food. (Photo: Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)

Stewart and Adem collaborated to create the Kitchen Sink Chicken Wings dish. His Seasoned wingsHBO’s featured the following: topped with butter and Coco-Cola barbecue Sauce. The Hard KnocksLast year.

“Chef Shumu’s success story is incredible,”Pemberton. “We are so fortunate to have him as a member of our game-day team. He’s deeply invested in our community, which is a core value of the Colts, and always displays a distinct brand of hoosier hospitality for our fans.”

Adem believes that he found the meaning in his life when he was freed from oppression in Ethiopia. “Everyone is looking for freedom to do what they want,”He says. “When I left my country, I wasn’t thinking about being a great chef or achieving success — I just wanted to live. It wasn’t until I got to the U.S. that I realized I could be anything I wanted in this country.”

He was right. He’s been a chef for Super Bowl XLVI, College Football Playoff National Championship, Big Ten Conference championship and NCAA Final Four, as well as the NFL Scouting Combine. Adem serves big-game winners with food, but he says he has won a battle for his freedom from political and socioeconomic oppression. This has allowed him to become a chef leader instead of a refugee.

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