The oilpatch’s loss has become Red Deer foodies’ gains.
“I spent 25 years in the oilfield,” said Rod Wild, who owns Roly Guacamole with his wife Heidi. “And I was very grateful for the work and grateful for the paycheque and having a job to support my family, whereas cooking didn’t.
“Now, I really like doing this. I mean nobody goes, ‘Man, I can’t wait to serve up some heavy oil’ — right? It just doesn’t happen,” says Wild with a laugh.
“But I’m really proud of the product we serve here.”
That product is hand-crafted corn tortilla pork carnitas, ancho cumin chicken or black bean tacos, and quesadillas.
“Last year was our first season and we learned a lot. We’ve been getting our footing and it’s been fun,” he said.
He also has another non-mobile pizza takeout business called Tomato Static Pizza at 524 Laura Ave. in Gasoline Alley, where he offers hand-tossed thin crust pizzas.
“So, I do pizzas out of there in the wintertime and tacos out of the truck in the summer. We shut the pizza side down in the summer.”
Both businesses are family operations, with son Jackson and daughter Chloe pitching in when they can.
Wild said all of their tacos and quesadillas have gone over well with customers. On a recent Friday at Capstone, where the food trucks are setting up this year after two years at Westerner Park, he was sold out of pretty much everything by the time the lunch rush was over.
His personal favourite? He admits he has a soft spot for his pork carnitas, which means “little meats” in Spanish, and is made from pork simmered for hours and seasoned until it is melt-in-your-mouth tender.
“The pork is near and dear to me. I ordered up a hand-hammered queso, which is a traditional copper cooking vessel they use in Michoacán, which is sort of the epi-centre of canitas. It’s as traditional as I can make it.”
Parked just down the road from Wild was another longtime energy industry worker who has reinvented themself.
Rhonda Klaus has been running 3 Pink Flamingos for four years after spending many years in oil industry sales.
When the oil downturn hit, she left and took stock of what her next career move would be.
“I stayed home for about six months and I really thought I need to do something fun, something that I can do during the summer and head to Mexico during the winter.”
So, 3 Pink Flamingos was born, represented by herself, her mother, Debbie Monk and daughter Kayla Wilson.
“We have perogies with a twist. We have a basic cheese and potato perogie, but it’s our toppings that are really unique.
For instance, The Ukrainian comes with Ukrainian sausage, onions, bacon, sour cream and sauerkraut. The Greek comes with tzatziki sauce, Greek salad and dressing, and feta cheese. The Mexican comes with chorizo salsa, sour cream, quacamole, cheese, French dressing, black olives and jalapenos.
The menu also includes perogies topped with homemade dill sauce, a perogie skewer, grilled chicken wrap, and a breakfast burrito.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it at the end of the summer,” she said.
“This year, we are booked solid for the season so I think it’s going to be a fantastic year. All of the events are opening back up again.”