Potato chip taste-testers were: from left, Sarah Sutton, owner of the Bite Into Maine lobster roll food truck and restaurant; Matt Ginn, the 2015 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year and July “Chopped” Champion; and Kelly Brodeur, owner of Freeport-based Vintage Maine Kitchen.

The “Chopped” champion was skeptical. So was the Maine potato chip maker. And the food truck owner? She was “almost afraid” of what she would find inside the bag in front of her.

The verdict’s in on Lay’s lobster roll-flavored potato chips, sampled Tuesday in South Portland: They don’t taste like lobster.

All three of our expert panelists cast a wary eye at the bag of Lay’s New England Lobster Roll potato chips given to them for an informal tasting on Tuesday. The chips are one of eight new “regionally-inspired flavors” created by Lay’s, the same folks who brought you the Southern Biscuits and Gravy chip a few years ago.

Sarah Sutton, owner of the Bite into Maine food truck, which sells fresh lobster rolls by the sea at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, perused the label on the packaging. “They actually have a New England Lobster Roll Seasoning,” she said. She began reading off the ingredients: salt, skim milk, spices, maltodextrin, yeast, sour cream. “OK, the sour cream I like. Butter I like. Brown sugar I like.”

Kelly Brodeur, owner of Vintage Maine Kitchen, a Freeport-based company that makes potato chips from Maine potatoes, poked her nose in the bag and noted the chips smelled like sour cream and onion chips.

Matt Ginn, the executive chef at Evo Kitchen & Bar in Portland who was a winner on the Food Network show “Chopped” last month and was the 2015 Maine Lobster Chef of the Year, said he was expecting the chips to taste something like a Japanese shrimp cracker made with dehydrated shrimp. But he observed that there appeared to be no animal products in the lobster roll chips. “No prawn, no anchovy, no nothing,” he said. “It doesn’t smell bad at all. I’m havin’ at it.”

WONDERING ABOUT LOBSTER FLAVOR

With that, all three tasters dug in, crunching away in silence.

Their verdict: Where’s the lobster?

“I’m getting no lobster at all,” Ginn said. “This does not taste like a lobster roll.”

The other two agreed.

“To me, it starts like it tastes like sour cream and onion, and then it finishes with something I can’t explain,” Sutton said.

“Like paprika,” Ginn said, “or …”

“Or toast,” Brodeur chimed in.

The panelists – thanks, perhaps, to Brodeur tasting hints of toast – all eventually picked up on the flavor of a griddled, buttery roll in the chips. And they suspected the suggestion of paprika might be coming from a Lay’s version of Old Bay-like seasoning – perhaps the same seasoning used on the new Chesapeake Bay Crab Spice chips? The other Tastes of America flavors released regionally Monday by Lay’s are Pimento Cheese (Southeast), Cajun Spice (Gulf Coast), Chile Con Queso (Southwest), Deep Dish Pizza (mid-America), Fried Pickles (Midwest) and Thai Sweet Chile (Pacific Northwest). Flavors from outside the region can be purchased online.

There was some discussion among the panelists about the possible reasons for the lack of real lobster flavor in the chips. Using lobster would be expensive, of course, but it also might be dangerous for people with shellfish allergies, they concluded.

Ginn, who was expecting a delivery of 20 lobsters at his restaurant that night, was nevertheless inspired. “If you give me two days,” he said, “I’ll make a lobster chip that actually tastes like lobster.”

How? Roast the lobster “bones” on low overnight until fragrant and dehydrated. Then grind them into a fine powder. Add salt, sugar and preservatives, then fry up some potato chips and dust them with the powder. Voila – real lobster-flavored potato chips.

And what would Ginn have done with these chips if they’d turned up as a mystery basket ingredient on his episode of “Chopped?”

“Maybe I’d crush them up,” he said. “I guess we’d have to know what else is in the basket. If they gave me these and some lobster, or these and some fish, maybe I’d make some kind of panko dredge and use them to bread something, see if we could repurpose the texture on them a little bit.”

NEVER MET A CHIP THEY DIDN’T LIKE

Lay’s will be promoting the New England Lobster Roll chips Thursday at the Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Hannah Hart, host of the Food Network Show “I Hart Food,” will join Lynn Archer, owner of The Brass Compass Café and Archer’s on the Pier, in a live cooking show at 3 p.m. They’ll be preparing Archer’s “King of Clubs,” a lobster club sandwich that was once featured on “Throwdown with Bobby Flay.”

Despite their disappointment that the lobster roll chips tasted more like sour cream and onion than seafood, everyone on our panel admitted that they’ve never met a potato chip they didn’t like. And they figure anything that gets people talking about one of Maine’s most valuable industries can’t be all bad.

“Every time they talk about lobsters, lobster rolls and chips,” Brodeur said, “it’s good for everybody.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MeredithGoad

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