Food Truck Pros share quick and easy recipes for home

By Daniel Patton, March 18, 2020


Social distancing has elevated the kitchen to a new level of importance in America. Loosely defined as the practice of staying away from other people to avoid spreading a virus, it is one of the recently issued federal guidelines that are turning private homes into new favorite restaurants throughout Chicago.

To help keep things tasty and efficient, New Eastside News interviewed food truck owners and cooks to learn how the pros make tasty meals on limited supplies.


Mario Martinez’ Huevos a la Mexicana

“Everybody has eggs,” says Mario Martinez. “Everybody has onions, tomatoes. You can make Mexican Eggs.”

Mario Martinez

Martinez was born in Mexico City and immigrated to Chicago, where he built Tacos Mario’s, a two-truck restaurant that has been featured on Chicago’s Best for the past two years.

He offered the following recipe while managing one of his vehicles at Clark St. just south of Monroe St.

“It’s sliced onion, sliced tomato, and sliced hot peppers,” he explains. “Fry the vegetables together and, when they are ready, just throw in the eggs and stir it all up. That’s it: huevos a la Mexicana.”

The peppers can be either hot or sweet. “My favorite is Serrano pepper,” says Mario. “It’s tasty. It’s better than the jalapeno. It’s the perfect hot pepper for everything.”

The same fried ingredients can be placed on top of eggs over easy to make huevos rancheros, ideally with a couple fried tortillas underneath it all. 

The authentic versions of both recipes call for cilantro, if it’s available, and they can be spiced up with oregano, chile guajillo molido, paprika, and a dash of vinegar. Mario says mushrooms don’t hurt either.


Thomas Brewer’s Roast Chicken

Chicago native Thomas Brewer learned how to cook from watching YouTube at home in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood near 75th and Halsted. He used the skill to launch Whadda Jerk Food Truck — where Jamaican and Mexican cuisine come together in a crunchy taco shell — which can usually be found serving customers across from Northwestern Hospital at 251 E. Huron.

Thomas Brewer

“When I don’t have much stuff,” he says, “I hit the freezer and thaw some chicken thighs or chicken wings, some chicken legs.”

Although his preference is to grill the bird for a couple hours to make it tender, Brewer gave us an oven-friendly version for preparing the meal.

“If I have a whole chicken or hen in the freezer or in the refrigerator, I would season it up with some seasoning salt, pepper, onion garlic, and a little Caribbean spice,” he says. “Dry rub it on, put it in a pot, put butter on top, add a little water, and just let it simmer for about an hour and thirty minutes,” he says.

The chicken should roast at 375 degrees for one to two hours, depending on size. During that time, according to Brewer, “the steam from the water will start tearing that meat apart.”

The best way to serve it is over rice.

“The rice you put a cup in a pot and two cups of water, let it steam until it’s nice and fluffy, maybe about forty minutes,” says Brewer. “I put that at the bottom of the plate, take that chicken out the pot, place it on top, and you have a little feast there.”


Jaime Salinas’ Sopas Aguadas

When asked about simple dishes that go a long way, Mexi-Tacos cook Jaime Salinas remembers the sopas aguadas that he enjoyed while growing up in Toluca, Mexico, about 40 miles southwest of Mexico City.

Jaime Salinas

“It’s soup with noodles and a lot of juice, like a lot of chicken broth,” he says. “It’s not that many ingredients, and it’s not difficult to cook as long as you get tomatoes, chicken broth, noodles, vegetables, garlic, and onion.”

Jaime fries the noodles in oil for a few minutes, then adds the onion, garlic, and tomatoes for a few more minutes. When it all begins to simmer, he adds the broth and brings the pot to a boil for a minute, then reduces it back to a simmer.

“In Mexico, we prepare the simple things,” he says. “It’s very good, and you can feed as many people as you want because, with one pot, it lasts a lot.”


Mario Martinez, Jr’s Rice and Beans

Chicago native Mario Martinez, Jr. developed a knack for cooking from his father, the founder and owner of award-winning Tacos Mario’s. He recommends recipes that include beans and rice because, among other things, they are “easy to stock and won’t go bad.”

Mario Martinez, Jr.

“For the rice, first I fry it, actually, with oil,” he says. “You fry the rice and the garlic and the onion and then you want to add some chicken broth.” When the rice and chicken broth starts to boil, add the tomatoes, reduce it all to a simmer, and then just “cover it up about fifteen minutes.”

“You can store it in the fridge,” he adds and use it to complement beef, steak, pork, or whatever Type of protein you’ve stocked up on.”


Curly Adams’ Ham and Eggs

Curly Adams learned his way around a kitchen by growing up with four brothers in Chicago. “My mom made sure we all know how to cook,” he explains. Today he uses the skill in the Harold’s Chicken Shack food truck, often located on Huron across from Northwestern University Hospital. When it comes to quick and easy meals, he prefers the breakfast route.

Curly Adams and Jessica Jarmon

“Ham and eggs,” he continues. “I have my toast in first. Then I put my ham in the microwave. Then I scramble my eggs. So, ten minutes, breakfast is ready. That’s why you got that microwave.”

As one of seven kids — three boys and four girls — Adams’ coworker Jessica Jarmon not only learned how to make her own food but also to eat it fast. “When we used to be hungry, it used to be crackers, baloney,” she recalls. “Also, we had bread and syrup.”

Her other recommendations for cooking in a pinch include grits, “which is easy,” Oodles of Noodles (a just-add-water brand of ramen noodle), and oatmeal with sugar and butter.


Julio Quilez’ Tacos Autenticos

Julio Quilez

Julio Quilez is the manager of Mr. Quiles Mexican Food Truck and a self-taught cook. “I just watch and learn,” he says.

Although the truck’s most popular item is chicken quesadillas, he believes that “the easiest thing to cook” is tacos. “Just stock up on tortillas — corn, the best ones — and get some different Mexican spices. Fry them up, add seasoned meat and, for the authentic way, add onion and cilantro.” 

Navy Pier Ferris Wheel offers unique look at the city

(Published Aug. 1, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff writer

The Navy Pier Ferris wheel is an iconic sight for tourists and Chicagoans.

Standing nearly 200 feet high, the Centennial Wheel is a behemoth, weighing 992,080 pounds, powered by 8 motors with over 10,000 bolts connecting the machine together. 

Devonne Phams, Senior Guest Experience Manager, and his staff are responsible for making sure riders have a great experience.

Phams has been with Navy Pier for 6 years, starting as an attraction attendant and working through the ranks to be promoted to Senior Guest Experience Manager. Part of his role is managing the staff who run the Ferris wheel, who ensure that guests have “a safe but fun time.”

Safety is a big part of their work, he said. Each morning, Phams’ team checks the Centennial Wheel to make sure everything is operational. They open and close doors, check the video screens and PA systems (in case a guest needs to contact the operator), as well as making sure the 42 gondolas are clean. 

On a good day during the week, Phams said they get close to 3,500 people on the Ferris wheel, but the number rises to 8,000 during the weekend. It can hold up to 420 people at a time with 8-10 people per gondola. 

The Centennial Wheel operates year round; with air conditioning for the hot summer months and heat for the cooler months. The Ferris wheel team monitors weather conditions, whether it is ice accumulation in the winter or thunderstorms. For safety precautions, the Ferris wheel is shut down if lightning strikes within 5 miles of Navy Pier.

At night, the Ferris wheel staff closes windows that guests may have opened during the day, collect and turn in any lost items, as well as cleaning the gondolas. They lock and secure the Ferris wheel for the night. And the cycle begins the next day.

Phams’ favorite part of the job is the people.

“We get people from all over the world,” he said. “They are totally amazed by the new Ferris wheel itself.” 

A particular moment that stands out for Phams is the annual Camp One Step. A nonprofit dedicated to provide educational and fun experiences for children with cancer brings a group of  kids to Navy Pier to ride the Ferris wheel. Each year, they put together a campfire song for Phams. “It’s really awesome,” he said.

Phams invites people to check out the Ferris wheel.

The view from the top is phenomenal. There’s nothing like it in the city,” he said.

Get to know the only biplane pilot in the Air and Water Show

(Published Aug. 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The Chicago Air and Water show may be famous for its display of high powered state-of-the art aircraft, but one airplane featured this year is not like the others. 

Chicago-based pilot Susan Dacy’s biplane is a throwback to pre-war piloting, to a time before jet engines, but her performance is no less technical and it is no less thrilling. 

Dacy, one of the pilots featured at the Chicago Air and Water Show Aug. 17-19, is one of the few female pilots in the U.S. performing in a bi-plane. But this isn’t her first Air and Water show. Dacy is a commercial pilot and, when she’s not doing tricks during her day job, she tours the country performing rolls, spins and other acrobatic tricks. She said she started in the 1990s and her decades of acrobatic performances is the realization of a goal she’s had since she was a kid and went to her first airshow.

“Of all the performances what impacted me was the biplane that flew,” she said. “It had the smoke trail and it was loud and it really excited me. I always remembered that.”

The early inspiration is reflected in Dacy’s plane, a bright red, 450 horsepower Super Stearman named Big Red. Although biplanes are among the earliest planes, the Super Stearman is a WWII-era plane, developed as a reliable craft for young pilots to learn to fly. Because of their reliability and their ubiquity, Dacy said quite a few planes were retired after the war and they flooded the civilian market.

“This type of plane trained bunches and bunches of cadets,” she said. “They made Army and Navy versions so they had gobs and gobs of these airplanes after the war. A lot of bombers and things like that were crushed up melted down and repurposed but a lot of the Stearmans luckily survived because it was determined they were good for crop dusters.”

It’s a Stearman crop duster that chases Cary Grant in “North by Northwest.”

Dacy’s plane was used in air shows before she bought it. Aside from a new engine, a new “skin” and some aileron flaps, it’s the same plane as the cadets would have piloted in training.

“It’s been a plane that’s pretty much worked its whole life,” she said. “It’s never been in a shed collecting dust.”

Later this month it will be at it again. Although the pilot schedule isn’t set until the day of the show—weather affects what planes can perform—Dacy offered a behind-the-scenes sense of what audiences can expect. Like all the other pilots, Dacy will take off from Indiana but Big Red is the only bi-plane scheduled for the day.

Dacy said audiences can expect “barnstormer-type moves,” including some twists and circles, shooting her craft high into the sky, trailing environmentally-friendly smoke before tumbling back down to earth and ending in a barrel roll.

While her performance may shock, surprise or even make audiences anxious, the one person who won’t be wowed is Dacy.

“Of course, we know what to expect, so it’s almost everything seems routine,” she said. Dacy said she’s got an exit plan in case of the worst, but said she doesn’t worry about it.

“You’re always thinking that stuff and it’s not being fatalistic but it’s just common sense,” she said. “But my airplane is so reliable, and of course I make sure maintenance is performed regularly”

Cookie Do pop up comes to Navy Pier

By Angela Gagnon – Staff Writer

New York’s popular edible cookie dough has come to Chicago.

Cookie DŌ Confections set up a small stand at the base of the Navy Pier Ferris wheel so Chicagoans and visitors can enjoy edible cookie dough treats through Labor Day.

Ryan Manley, a filmmaker from Atlanta, wanted to check out the trending treat in New York, and he was pleasantly surprised to find the pop up Cookie DŌ kiosk at Navy Pier while visiting Chicago to see “Hamilton.”

“It’s really good,” Manley said. “I thought it would be small, but it’s very filling. I’m glad I got to try it here.”

The abbreviated menu features the raw Cookie DŌ, cookie dough ice cream, cookie sandwiches and ice cream “SanDos.”

“We use a pasteurized egg product and a heat-treated ready-to-eat flour which make all of our desserts safe to consume just as they are—unbaked,” founder Kristen Tomlan said.

Cookie DŌ ships nationwide. To purchase  flavors outside of what is served at the pop up, visit

The Cookie DŌ pop up at Navy Pier is open Sundays-Thursdays from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-midnight, weather permitting.

MCA’s ‘The Great Outdoors’ takes visitors to ‘inner space’

For the West Loop News

(Published March 20, 2019

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present “The Great Outdoors,” a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through ‘inner space.’

A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, “The Great Outdoors” connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today’s networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.

“The Great Outdoors” is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day’s internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the ‘internet’s id’ – a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.

The Great Outdoors” invites audiences to consider the internet as both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as “a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century.” As audiences imagine the internet’s infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.

“The Great Outdoors”takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA and seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved at or by calling the box office at 312-397-4010.

A look at One Bennett Park

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

With work wrapping up, developers of One Bennett Park said residents of the upper floor condominiums will begin moving into the property in March.

Floors one through 39 opened in November.

The 70-story project gives Streeterville one of the tallest buildings in the city and will add hundreds of residents to the 451 East Grand Ave. location.

Tricia Van Horn, vice president of marketing and communications for Related Midwest, said her company is no stranger to the Streeterville area.

Related Midwest has developed highly successful apartment and condominium buildings in Streeterville for more than two decades, including 500 Lake Shore Drive, and we know it’s a terrific place to call home,” she said in an email.

Van Horn cited the neighborhood’s history and proximity to retail, transportation and cultural institutions as attractive features for developers. She said she expects the One Bennett Park development will be a good fit.

The building was designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), and Van Horn said the exterior reflects a classic, historic style.

“One Bennett Park, Related Midwest and RAMSA have created an all-residential, heirloom building whose design pays homage to the city’s beloved pre-war architectural heritage. A limestone podium, formal motor courts, ornamental metalwork, vertical setbacks and a lantern ‘crown’ distinguish the building from most new construction towers,” she said.

The exterior might look old-school, but the inside amenities are modern. Apartments and condominiums range from $3,700 to $18,500 per month, with floor plans from 905 to 3,323 square feet.

Residents will have access to fitness and wellness facilities located on the third and fourth floors. These include training studios, a club-level gym with cardiovascular and strength equipment, a 60-foot indoor pool and a 10,000-square-foot deck overlooking Bennett Park with an outdoor pool, fire pits and grilling stations, Van Horn said.

The third and fourth floor amenities include a children’s play area, prep and catering kitchens, and a “tween room” with games, televisions and modular lounge seating.

Additionally, the two-acre Bennett Park is expected to open in summer 2019. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh, the creator of Maggie Daley Park, the park will lie adjacent to the property and include a playground, dog runs and meandering pathways, Van Horn said.

The park will be closed certain days each year for One Bennett Park residents to hold private events.

As of February, units were still available. Contact a Related representative at for information.

MCA exhibit offers up Midwestern sensibility in Western setting

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer

In November, the Museum of Contemporary Art opened a new exhibition, “West by Midwest,” showing works by a collection of artists from the Midwest who migrated West in order to develop their artistic vision.

The art in the collection spans much of the middle part of the 20th century and the early parts of this century, and the media varies from sculpture and photography to painting and knitting. In total, the exhibition includes 80 pieces from artists like Billy Al Bengston, Andrea Bowers, Judy Chicago, Anna Halprin, David Hammons, Mike Kelley, Senga Nengudi, Laura Owens, Sterling Ruby and Ed Ruscha.

This exhibit represents a diverse crowd creating over a long period of time, and Charlotte Ickes, a post-doctoral student and MAC Curatorial Fellow for the exhibit, explained that viewers should avoid being reductivist in looking for common themes when visiting the collection.

“[The exhibition] can mean many different things because it’s many different artists,” she said. Not only did the artists work in different media across different times, but some were expressly political, and even that political emphasis shifted throughout the decades.

Ickes said the only real connective through-line in the exhibition is the constant attempts by each artists to do innovative work in whatever medium they’re working in.

“Those are the shared concerns you’ll see throughout the show,” she said.

Rather than emphasizing any sense of shared aesthetics or point of view of the Midwestern artists, the collective exhibition illustrates how regional artists impacted the national art scene—or at least the California scene in response to their individual concerns and aesthetics.

For a deeper dive, don’t miss a talk on Dec. 9 led by artist Barbara Kasten. Kasten will lead a walkthrough of the exhibition with Ickes and will talk about her work, as well as the work of her favorite fellow artists. This begins at 2 p.m. and it is free with museum admission.

The exhibition is on display now through Jan. 27, 2019 at the MCA. The MCA is located at 22 E. Chicago Avenue and is open Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.,Wednesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on Friday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum is closed Christmas and New Year’s Day.

An introduction to the familiar faces behind your favorite music

By Jesse Wright | Staff Writer


The Christmas season means cold weather, good family, friends, warm wishes and…music.

No matter the person, a love of Christmas carols is almost universal and perhaps no choir knows that more than the Chicago Chamber Choir, a group that includes some of the city’s top talent. The choir should be familiar to downtown residents.

Executive Director Kayleigh Duduvoir was, until recently, a Streeterville resident and her choir performs regularly in the area—they have a Dec. 20 performance at the Clare on their calendar—and they also sing at Cloud Gate in Millennium Park.

That performance is slated for Dec. 7, but before the big show, Duduvoir offered a look behind the scenes of one of the city’s top choirs.

“Usually our official season begins in October, but we get Christmas requests as soon as mid-November,” she said.

This month at Cloud Gate, Dudevoir said guests can expect to hear a mix of Christmas music.

“Some traditional Christmas carols like ‘Silent Night,’ ‘Deck the Halls’ and so on, as well as Christmas-themed but not traditional carols” will be sung in the park, she said.

Dudevoir said the choir has been performing at Cloud Gate for several years—it’s her sixth season with the group—and she said it’s always enjoyable for the choir and for the attendees. “We’ve done a number of performances there and there are always lots of children,” she said.

Guests will bring hot chocolate to sip while they listen and, Dudevoir said, if it’s not too terribly cold, the choir tries to wear festive sweaters, so it’s not so formal.

The city invites folks to hear some of the best choirs in the city perform Christmas carols for free at Cloud Gate.

All performances begin at 6 p.m. and wrap up by 7 p.m. Admission is free. The other performances will be Dec. 12 and Dec. 14 at the same times. To check out the Chicago Chamber Choir, its website,, includes all upcoming dates.

Reilly updates Streeterville on neighborhood development

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

At a community meeting Alderman Brendan Reilly offered updates on various projects he’s worked on over the past year in the Streeterville area.

The meeting was hosted by the The Streeterville Association of Active Residents (SOAR).

Heather Gleason, director of planning and development for the Chicago Park District, Navy Pier’s chief operating officer Brian Murphy, Malihe Samadi, coordinating engineer for the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Commander Daniel O’Shea of the Chicago Police Department also attended the meeting as panelists.

The alderman then reviewed issues he has worked on including raising fines for double-parking, adjusting policies around use of sirens on emergency vehicles, liquor-related problems, traffic improvements such as a new red light camera at Michigan and Ontario and development of the Spire site at 400 Lake Shore Dr. The alderman rejected the proposal for the site, citing resident concerns. He said he hopes the developer, Related Midwest, will make changes to the proposal.

Tribune Tower has fewer objections than the Spire site, but there are still “critical” issues that need to be addressed, he said.

Reilly stressed the importance of supporting downtown Chicago due to the area’s financial contribution to the city as a whole.

“This ward pays the bills. This ward is nearly two-thirds of the city’s economy. So if it becomes unaffordable to be here and unsafe to be here—and tourists stop wanting to be here—everyone in the city is going to suffer, not just downtown,” he said, adding that the downtown area has seen “unprecedented growth” in recent years.

Public safety issues were discussed with Commander O’Shea, and Reilly added that lighting and security camera improvements have been made in the community or are in the works. O’Shea said that investigative stop reports, traffic stops, municipal tickets, vehicle impounds, guns confiscated and arrests with guns are all up, proving that the police continue to engage with suspicious people.

O’Shea said if people see something suspicious, they should call 911, even if they may think what they see isn’t worthy of a call. it is no big deal.

Next, a resident asked about plans to develop parks. Reilly and Gleason from the park district said Ogden Plaza Park development has run into some legal issues regarding replacing the membrane between the ground and the parking garage underneath the park.

Reilly said Olive Park is a Department of Water Management asset and there are homeland security concerns surrounding the park because of its proximity to a water treatment plant.

One Bennett Park, he said, is “nearing completion.” Residents asked about spaces for dogs, and Reilly said there will be two dog runs in Bennett Park. Additionally,  DuSable Park could be a candidate for a dog run and dog park.

The alderman also discussed the traffic management plan for Streeterville, the introduction of new pedestrian countdown crosswalk signals and other pedestrian safety improvements.

Alderman Reilly and Samadi, the engineer from CDOT, said the first two phases of the Navy Pier Flyover bridge will be finished this year and a temporary ramp will be installed to connect the phases to the existing lower level Lake Shore Drive path. The full Flyover is expected to be done by the end of 2019, Reilly said.

Get your gifts close to home: Shop Streeterville

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Streeterville hosts the Mag Mile and a slew of name-brand national retailers in addition to some local hidden gems. Why not shop at both? Here is a list of some of the must-haves in Streeterville.

Kriser’s Natural Pet

Kriser’s Natural Pet store, 356 E. Ohio St., is a national brand that started right here in Chicago. Be sure to support this success story for all your pet presents.

This year’s hot ticket items include HuggleHounds holiday pet toys retailing for around $15. If you’re a more practical pet parent who want to keep your dog warm, try a coat from Canada Pooch. Prices vary depending on size and style. Of course, you’ll want a dog coat with some matching boots. This season Pawz rubber boots are the way to go, with most boots costing around $15.

Kriser’s Natural Pet store is open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. most days. For more information, call 312-951-1331.



For the finicky and fabulous person on your list, check out Sephora, a high-end beauty store with a variety of makeup and skin products. This year, the store offers two new products that are flying off shelves.

First, customers are going crazy over the Charlotte Tilbury Stars in Your Eyes Palette. This is a limited-edition eye shadow palette retailing for around $75.

The next big thing this season is the Pat McGrath Labs’ Mothership V Eye Palette. Pat McGrath Labs made news this year when its value soared north of $1 billion, and it’s easy to see why with this flashy, tasteful offering, retailing at $125. There are two Sephora locations in Streeterville, 605 N. Michigan Ave. and Water Tower Place at 845 N. Michigan. The 605 N. Michigan Ave. location will not have special hours for Black Friday, but it will offer specialty miniature sets for sale for a limited time that day. The store is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 312-649-9343.


The Cubs Team Store

The Cubs Team Store, 668. N. Michigan Ave., is the go-to place for all your Cubs fans — for men, women, boys and girls, they have something for everyone. Jerseys are always popular, and this season the top jerseys to buy include the Javier Baez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo jerseys. The jerseys retail for $135 each.

Looking for something for the little ones? The Cubs Team Store is now offering small Oyo Sports minifigures and buildables (think Legos) for $15 and TY-brand Cubs dolls for $10—perfect for stocking stuffers.

Last year, the store opened early for Black Friday, though no announcement for this year has been made as of press deadline. The store is open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information, call 312-280-5469.

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