HERMON, Maine — If you’ve been to either of Dysart’s restaurants, you may have spotted a particular name in their menu. He creates their soups and concocts the stuffing that’s piled high on their hot Thanksgiving sandwich. He also cooks and slices their turkey and thick corned beef.
He’s Chef Yaz, and he has caught the eye of more than just Mainers.
Dysart’s chef Shaun “Yaz” Yazbek recently competed on the Food Network reality show “Chopped,” which will premiere at 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 1. Yazbek competed against three other chefs for a $10,000 prize in an episode titled “Truck Stop Stars.”
Yazbek has worked for Dysart’s since 1994, predominantly at their location on Coldbrook Road in Hermon. He grew up with a passion for food in the family. His father was a pastry chef, and his mother was an “incredible cook.”
“I grew up with food in the house,” he said. “Food is always what I’ve wanted to do.” His stint on “Chopped” was another way to show that dedication.
Yazbek joined the army at the age of 17 in 1976. He worked with computers and guided missiles, but as soon as he was out he came right back to the kitchen.
“When I got out of the army, I went back to food,” he said.
Originally from Massachusetts, Yazbek relocated to Hampden, where he lives in a log cabin on 100 acres of land. Now, after years of crafting iconic Maine food for Dysart’s, he said he’s happy to take on “Chopped.”
“I love the challenge of it,” he said. “I love the idea of Maine being showcased and Dysart’s being showcased.”
“Chopped,” which is in its 27th season, gives four chefs the opportunity to showcase their skills and food knowledge in each episode. The competition is broken into appetizer, entree and dessert courses, each of which must include mystery ingredients. After each course, one chef is eliminated by a panel of judges based on the dish’s creativity, presentation and taste.
“It was an experience. It was a lot of pressure. You’re working with the unknowns. You have to be fast on your feet,” Yazbek said.
Although he couldn’t reveal the details of the dishes he prepared, according to the show’s website several of the mystery ingredients included meatloaf mix, fennel, a purple veggie, a sweet drink and apple pie.
As far as the competition goes, he admits to being nervous, but audiences can expect an entertaining show.
“I love to shine on camera,” Yazbek said with a laugh.