By Katy Savage
Cooking was Mason Zeglen’s outlet through hard times.
When his parents divorced, when he was 13 years old, he cooked.
He stirred pots of jams. He canned and preserved vegetables and ate English sugar peas raw from the family’s large vegetable garden on River Road in Killington. He made just about anything farm-fresh, from scratch.
“Cooking helped me focus on something other than family issues,” he said.
Zeglen cooked dinner for his mother and his younger sister three a nights week so his mother could clean homes in Killington before and after dinner to make ends meet.
On Fridays, they ordered pizza.
“Whatever we had, we cooked,” said Carol, his mother. “I didn’t have recipes.”
Cooking was also a creative outlet for Zeglen, who was diagnosed with dyslexia at age 5.
He struggled as a student at Woodstock Union High School. He couldn’t read recipes, but he could memorize them.
“Seeing that food could be artistic helped me in that realm too,” Zeglen said.
Zeglen became a problem solver.
“I overcame (dyslexia) by being stronger in other areas,” he said. “I was self-motivated to push myself harder than the person down the street.”
Now, Zeglen is going to appear on a cooking show.
Zeglen, 35, is going to be on Guy’s Grocery Games on Food Network Aug. 29.
Zeglen competed against other chefs in a challenge that requires going to a grocery store and cooking a recipe using only dry ingredients—“everything we hate,” Zeglen said.
This was the third show Zeglen auditioned for. He created a 30-second video highlighting his personality and skills.
“He said it was the craziest thing he’s ever done in cooking,” said Carol.
Zeglen has experience cooking for 200 people in the middle of a cow pasture in Vermont. He has experience in fine dining restaurants and everything in between. Zeglen currently lives in Bozeman, Montana, and manages three restaurants.
“He really wanted to be on a cooking show,” his mother said.
Zeglen said he likes the television show atmosphere for the challenge it brings.
“I like throwing it on the line,” he said.
Zeglen has always known what he wanted to do—cook.
“It’s all he’s wanted to do,” his mother Carol said.
Zeglen honed his cooking skills by bussing tables at the former Powderhounds restaurant in Killington. He then became a line cook at Santa Fe Steakhouse. Zeglen earned math, art and science credits through a work study program offered through Woodstock Union High School.
After he graduated from high school in 2000, he attended New England Culinary Institute.
“He’s a very hard worker,” said Tricia Jarecki, who formerly owned Powderhounds. “He wanted something and went out and got it.”
Zeglen said his work ethic comes from his upbringing.
“If something breaks you just fix it. You don’t cry about it,” he said.
Zeglen’s cooking has won numerous awards.
Though he no longer lives in the area, Zeglen still makes recipes from his childhood, which he learned from cooking the food his family grew in the garden.
One of his signature dishes now is an English sugar pea dish.
“That’s one of the dishes that brings me home,” he said.