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The Blondes, Brains and Babes Behind the Colossal Onion

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The Blondes, Brains and Babes Behind the Colossal Onion
Brooke Tucker-Reid, Lifestyle Writer

‘Tis the season for weirdly delicious festival food and chances are Metcalf Food & Beverage Inc. has served it to you. The multiple generation family business travels across our great nation tantalizing our taste buds with award winning festival fare. I’ve had to fix my laptop twice while writing this article due to the amount of drool I’ve produced just day dreaming about frosted flake coated chicken. Just kidding. That’s gross. But seriously, FROSTED FLAKE CHICKEN … ON A STICK!

Metcalf Food & Beverage Inc. is best known for its classic Colossal Onion and Frosted Flake Chicken on a Stick but they serve a variety of items. Frosted Flake Chicken on a Stick caused a media buzz last year topping must-try food lists from the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), winning them the 2015 Best Booth Award for their Iron Skillet booth.

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The Colossal Onion recipe as you see it today has gone through a long process of trial and error to get it to the point where it is today. It’s a hit with crowds wherever they set-up shop.

“In the food industry, you’re always looking for and experimenting with new food ideas,” said Clay Metcalf, owner of Metcalf Food & Beverage Inc. “The deciding factor in creating a new food item is not solely dependent on what a consumer is willing to try or eat. You must also be able to serve it under volume conditions, while maintaining a high level of quality for the item to be successful.”

So what can we expect new this year?
Making its CNE debut, get ready to try the “fully loaded” Colossal Onion. This spin on the classic battered flowering deep fried onion served with chipotle mayo dipping sauce, will be topped with hot nacho cheese, bacon bits and chives.

Employees at Metcalf Food & Beverage Inc. consist of Clay and his wife Lana, their pack of awesome kids, and a bunch of loyal, longtime friends and employees. What’s the strangest request they’ve received recently? This year at the Calgary Stampede, a woman asked if she could just have the raw onion flower, without the deep fried batter.  She said she loved onions and would eat the whole thing raw!

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A family business 50 years in the making

Metcalf Food & Beverage Inc. is a second generation family business that’s been going strong for over 50 years. First owned by Clay’s parents, the business has evolved quite a bit. One of Clay’s earliest childhood memories was standing at the grill on top of a Coke case as he was too small to reach the front counter to serve customers their burgers. The business has always been a family food operation and growing up in the business has afforded him the opportunity to learn the industry from the ground up.

“The success of a business comes from the pride that is involved,” said Laurie Metcalf, one of Clay’s daughters who often travels across Canada to work various festivals and fairs. “Life on the road is tough. Dedication to the family business has allowed our company to prosper and be the success it is today.”

Just like his father before him, Clay encouraged his family to get involved in the business at a young age.

“As a parent, it has afforded me the opportunity to create memories, spending time together while travelling and working together as a family,” said Clay. “Recognizing the environment, I ensured that they had plenty of time away from the business during the summer months to enjoy time with their friends. Participation wasn’t mandatory – we encouraged extra-curricular activities and summertime fun with friends.”

Food Truck Fun Facts from The Colossal Onion

  • Even confined to a food truck or booth in the CNE’s food building, it’s not uncommon for a Metcalf Food & Beverage Inc. employee to bank 19,000 steps in a day. That’s nearly double the daily recommended step count.
  • All of their food products are sourced locally when produce items are in season. Their protein products are almost always Canadian sourced as well.
  • Longest standing menu item: the classic corn dog. The recipe remains true but in recent years they kicked things up a notch and introduced “The Biggest Dog” – an 18 inch hand dipped corn dog. It’s Canada’s biggest dog on a stick!
  • Best crowds: the Calgary Stampede and the Canadian National Exhibition which bring in 1.4 million customers and 1.6 million customers, respectively.
  • They won three awards this year at the Calgary Stampede: The Colossal Onion – Best Major Outdoor Food; Chicken Tenders – Runner-up: Best Major Outdoor Food; and Chicken Tenders – Best Food on a Stick for Frosted Flake Chicken on a Stick.

You can follow the Colossal Onion on Instagram at @thecolossalonion.