In the appetizer round of a recent Chopped competition on the Food Network, four chefs were given the following ingredients: rabbit terrine, guanciale (a cured meat), spring garlic and Hamburger Helper.

Nemo Bolin, who grew up on the Vineyard and honed his cooking skills as a boy working at l’etoile in Edgartown, quickly went to work creating a friseé salad with a vinaigrette made out of rabbit, guanciale and spring garlic. He used the Hamburger Helper to season croutons and added sunny-side-up egg yolks to top it off.

The dish impressed the judges and Mr. Bolin went on to win not only the appetizer round but the entire competition, taking home $10,000.

Mr. Bolin’s culinary journey has taken him from the Vineyard, to Boston, to the West Coast, to Providence, R.I. where he opened his first restaurant and currently lives with his wife Jenny and their sons Omen (Nemo backward) and Ziggy. He commutes to Boston as the head chef at Eastern Standard, an American brasserie just a short walk from Fenway Park. Eastern Standard is closed now due to the pandemic, but Mr. Bolin has been busy working as the culinary director for a group of Eastern Standard’s sister restaurants in Boston.

Mr. Bolin’s trip to the Chopped podium began when a friend saw a casting call in the Providence area and encouraged him to audition. After a long application process, Mr. Bolin found himself on the Upper East Side of Manhattan meeting a Chopped production assistant on the street at 5:30 a.m. and led to the studio.

The competition featured three rounds — appetizer, entreé and dessert — with the chefs making dishes on the spot after being presented with a menu of obscure ingredients.

In round two, Mr. Bolin had to make an entreé using beer ramen (ramen in a mug with egg white froth on top), sablefish, corn on the cob and lemon cake mix. He turned the ingredients into a corn succotash and lemon cake-crusted sablefish with a lemon cake ver blanc.

On the phone with the Gazette, Mr. Bolin said he was inspired by al fresco summer dinners on the Vineyard with his family. However, the lemon cake mix proved to be tricky for all the chefs to work with.

“It tastes sorta fake and is an odd ingredient, especially when the other main component is fish,” Mr. Bolin said. “That threw me and everybody else there for a bit of a loop.”

Fortunately, as an Islander, Mr. Bolin is no stranger to working with fish.

“My brother is a commercial fisherman out of Edgartown and I come from a fishing family so it felt like it made sense. I felt really lucky they put that in the entree round.”

The judges enjoyed the “winter meets summer” aspect of his entree. And although they agreed the lemon cake left an odd aftertaste, the judges said Mr. Bolin’s fish was cooked wonderfully.

In round three, Mr. Bolin and one other chef competed to create a dessert made out of feta cheese ice cream, pears, blueberry ketchup and chocolate-covered espresso beans.

Mr. Bolin said the dessert ingredients “were sort of shocking when you first see them but once you understand what it is, feta cheese in liquid form but it’s salty and savory and the ketchup is tangy with a little bit of sweetness, you get past the initial shock and there was a way to manipulate them that felt okay.”

In the end, Mr. Bolin’s caramelized pear tartlet and salted chocolate espresso mousse led him to victory. 
“You want to make everybody proud as well and do a good job,” he said. “You don’t really know what’s coming at you but you want to compete as hard as possible.”

Mr. Bolin said he watched the premiere of the episode with his two young sons who didn’t know the outcome.

“They knew that I was on and I hadn’t told them details about it. It was a real thrill for them.”