Lobster in La-La Land
Sabin Lomac is helping to bring a taste of Maine to California. This month, Lomac, a former Scarborough resident, and his cousin, Jim Tselikis, a Cape Elizabeth native, opened Cousins Maine Lobster, a food truck based in Los Angeles, Calif., that travels from event to event selling Maine-based lobster products.
The business, which has been in the works since last summer, unofficially opened April 27 with an appearance at the Atomic Eats Drive-In Dinner event at Artesia Portuguese Hall, where 1,000 to 1,500 people were expected to attended.
Tselikis said the company’s first event was a success.
“We had many more customers than we expected. It was a very good turnout,” he said. “It’s a small sample size, but the feedback was phenomenal.”
The truck had its grand opening this week with events at L.A. Lunch in Los Angeles and Drive-In Dinner Cerritos in Cerritos, Calif. on May 2; Wilshire Lunch in Los Angeles and SouthBay DinDinAGoGo in Harbor City, Calif. on May 3; a return to Atomic Eats Drive-in Dinner at Artesia Hall on May 4 and appearances at Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, Calif. on May 5 and Food Truck Fest at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif. on May 6.
“We will be doing mostly events,” Lomac said. “There are a lot of food trucks in Los Angeles. The gourmet food truck scene is huge here.”
Lomac, 31, said operating a food truck is a “great opportunity” for Cousins Maine Lobster to get its name out there and to introduce fresh Maine lobster to residents of Los Angeles.
“We know what it is like to taste fresh Maine lobster. Fresh means not frozen. It means Maine. It’s traceable to the icy waters of Maine and nowhere else,” Lomac said.
In an effort to provide only the freshest ingredients, Lomac said the lobster in the products offered at the truck is shipped the day before it is served at an event. Menu items include lobster rolls, crab rolls, shrimp rolls, lobster tacos, lobster martini, los primos ceviche, lobster bisque, lobster ice cream, as well as Maine whoopie pies and root beer soda.
The food cart’s opening has been a longtime coming for Lomac, who sells real estate in Los Angeles and San Diego, where he was born, and Tselikis, who currently lives in Massachusetts.
“It went from conversation to conversation. It was something we couldn’t get away from it was something we couldn’t shelve. We have been full steam ahead with it ever since,” Lomac said.
In August, Lomac said, he and Tselikis sat down to plan out the business model.
“Starting a business is difficult, especially when you have a full-time job and other commitments. It’s taken a good amount of time, but we are here now and we are really, really excited.”
Tselikis, who grew up in Cape Elizabeth, said many people in California have only tasted Maine lobster from visiting the state while on vacation.
“Growing up in Maine, we were always able to have fresh lobster whenever we wanted to at a reasonable cost. We thought fresh lobster was really inaccessible here,” Tselikis said. “Ultimately fresh Maine lobster doesn’t exist out here. If there is a version of lobster, it is not the authentic Maine lobster taste.”
“A lot of the lobster here comes from Mexico or southern California. People are not used to the real taste of fresh Maine lobster,” Lomac said. “People in Los Angles are serious about their food. They want good quality food. We are optimistic they will embrace us, because (Cousins Maine Lobster) is truly one of a kind. It is a novelty. For that reason alone, we are confident they will like what we serve.”
Tselikis, 27, said through Cousins Maine Lobster, he and Lomac are doing much more than simply offering Maine-based lobster. He said he sees the company as a resource for information about the culture of Maine for the people on the West Coast.
“We want to educate people. It goes beyond just the products we serve. We are creating a Maine experience out here,” Tselikis said.
To that end, the food truck has a flat-screen television in it that shows DVDs featuring local fisherman and lobstermen. Tselikis said his sister Annie Tselikis, a member of the Maine Lobsterman Association, has played an important role in helping Cousins Maine Lobster spread the message about life in Maine.
“She has been an endless resource for us and an important contact in the industry,” he said.
Lomac, who lived in Maine from the age of 5 until he graduated from Scarborough High School at 18, moved to Los Angeles six years ago to become an actor, after studying acting at Hofstra University. Lomac has appeared in numerous plays and has done television work on “All My Children,” “Guiding Light,” “Veronica Mars,” “MADtv” and on the History Channel. Tselikis said he reconnected with Lomac two years ago during his first visit to Los Angeles.
Despite enjoying Los Angeles and the West Coast culture, Lomac said he misses Maine. He said he still has a lot of family in Maine and tries to get back to visit at least once a year.
“It’s a much simpler life. It’s quieter. It’s less hectic and less stressful. I miss the beach. I am from the Pine Point area. I loved going to the beach there,” Lomac said.
Although he is much closer than Lomac, Tselikis, who lived in Maine until he was 25 and played hockey at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., said he misses his home state as well.
“There is nothing better than a Maine summer. The smell of the salt water can’t be found anywhere else,” he said.
Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.