The Untold Truth Of Sabin Lomac

You can call Sabin Lomac a lot of things — actor, television personality, chef, and entrepreneur. Now, you can also call Lomac a host because of his new Food Network series, "Grill of Victory." But anyone who has followed the chef's career, even a little, knows the title that suits him the most is family man. Everything Lomac does in his wide-ranging career comes back to his kin. It's even in the name of the brand he is perhaps best known for — Cousins Maine Lobster — a chain of food trucks and restaurants he founded with his younger cousin, Jim Tselikis (via Total Food Service). 

The story of two boys growing up together in Maine, and then reuniting as adults to sell lobster out of a truck to long lines of happy customers, sounds like a fairy tale. But Lomac's successes in the food business and on television didn't come with the wave of a magic wand. He's quick to tell people that his story involved adversity, a lot of hard work, and plenty of setbacks. In fact, because of his troubled youth, Lomac almost never found his path to success. He can thank his mother, and a Big Brother, for keeping him on track.

A Big Brother turned Sabin Lomac's life around

When Lomac was coming into his teen years growing up in Scarborough, Maine, he was getting into a lot of trouble. "I was in the worst trouble of my life," Lomac told NBC. "I'd spent nights in jail, anything ranging from fights or getting kicked out of school, drinking, drugs, graffiti — you name it, I was trying it." The actor had a loving mother and a close extended family, but his father wasn't in his life. While Scarborough's cops and school principals were getting to know Lomac too well, his mother took a crucial step to fill that void in his life. "My mom had applied for Big Brothers Big Sisters, hoping that I could find a male mentor," Lomac told Inc.

After the host was paired with a Big Brother, the relationship changed his life. "He would come to my soccer games and my basketball games," Lomac told the Portland Press Herald. "He would talk to me about girls or drinking or any of the things I had no one at the time to talk to about." With the support of his Big Brother, Lomac graduated high school and college with honors (via Inc). He would even eventually serve as a Big Brother himself, and be recognized as Big Brother of the Year in 2016. He and Tselikis also started a charity, Cousins for a Cause, that supports Big Brothers and Big Sisters. 

Sabin Lomac started Cousins Maine Lobster to recreate their childhood

A decade ago, you couldn't rightfully call Lomac a chef or an entrepreneur. He was a small-time actor in Los Angeles whose day job in a real estate office paid the bills (via Hofstra University). His cousin, Tselikis, was visiting from Boston in 2011, and the two of them hit Sunset Boulevard to eat sushi and get drunk. "We had ... far too many, which is when we thought the best ideas would come," Tselikis told WTNH. This was the night the two of them came up with Cousins Maine Lobster. "We didn't have any culinary experience, no business experience — just a love for lobster and family," Tselikis said. 

For people in Maine, lobster isn't experienced as a luxury item. It's what barbecue is for Texans — something families enjoy in their backyards, on paper plates, in the summertime. "We wanted to recreate our childhood," Lomac told The Boston Globe. "Something about lobster rolls reminded us of our childhood — sitting around laughing, making fun of each other." So, the pair took their drunken idea hatched at a sushi place on the road in 2012.

Sabin Lomac got a big boost from 'Shark Tank'

A crowd was waiting for the Cousins Maine Lobster truck before it even arrived on its first-ever day of business, according to Marketplace. Lines have been forming outside the company's trucks ever since — as evidenced by Instagram posts from San Francisco to Taiwan. Since then, Cousins Maine Lobster went from a single truck to eight restaurants and 28 trucks nationwide, according to the chain's website. Of course, a lot of hard work went into that growth — something the entrepreneur preaches frequently on Instagram. "Business is hard, scary, daunting, and exhausting," he explained. 

Lomac's company also got a big boost early on from the reality show "Shark Tank" (via Foodable). Investor and co-host Barbara Corcoran bought the cousins' pitch — and the television exposure no doubt helped, too. Part of what snagged them the deal with Corcoran, was probably their delicious food options and great price points. Cousins Maine Lobster's menu includes lobster rolls, lobster tacos, and lobster grilled cheese (via Total Food Service). The chain operates at a price point of around $15, and Lomac often says the company's goal is to make lobster an "affordable luxury." Lomac and his cousin used their Maine connections to strike deals directly with Maine lobstermen, which ensures they know which boats their lobsters come from (via Marketplace). The lobsters are also all wild-caught and sustainably harvested.

Sabin Lomac has appeared on several Food Network shows

An actor by training, Lomac has appeared on television ever since his early 20s, when he was cast in the soap operas "Guiding Light" and "All My Children" (via IMDb). Lomac entered the world of food television in 2014, when he appeared on an episode of "The Great Food Truck Race." The host was also a judge on "Chopped Junior" and a special guest on "Food Network Star" (via Food Network). Lomac even hosted his own show, "Great Food Truck Rally" in 2017, but Food Network only aired the pilot episode, according to TV Tango.

Finally, he broke through as host of Cooking Channel's "Seaside Snacks and Shacks," which got a full season in 2018 (via Portland Press Herald). Same as the food business, Lomac had to struggle to succeed on television. He told the Portland newspaper he had filmed maybe eight other food show pilots before "Seaside Snacks and Shacks." Now, Lomac's television career appears to be gaining momentum. He and Tselikis co-hosted the "Kitchen Nightmares" on-wheels show "Food Truck Rehab" on Food Network earlier this year (via The Boston Globe). And now Lomac is hosting the new show "Grill of Victory" on Food Network, which will feature three home cooks in a barbecuing competition, trying to win a custom outdoor kitchen.

Family is all-important to Sabin Lomac

Lomac didn't know much about cooking, he only knew he liked lobster. So, why did he and Tselikis start a food truck business? When they dreamed up the idea on that fateful, alcohol-fueled night in 2011, they didn't focus on food. They talked about family. "The fun part about owning your own business is you get to create the guidelines, and what we've created is something fun," Lomac told Marketplace. "And that's what the lobster bakes at home were. It's nothing fancy, but it's just really a lot of love."

One of the first self-promotions Lomac and Tselikis did for Cousins Maine Lobster was a photo they posted on Twitter before they first opened, according to their book, excerpted on Marketplace. It wasn't a photo of a lobster or a food truck. It was a picture of the two cousins as boys, hanging out with their grandfather on a Maine beach. If family is the defining image of their business, it's also their ethos. Many of their outlets scattered across the U.S. and Taiwan are owned by franchisees, but Lomac and Tselikis refer to them as family members (via Portland Press Herald). Then there's Lomac's true family — his wife and son, who appear on Lomac's Instagram just as much as his television show promotions. Often, he captions these family pictures with just one word: "Thankful."