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Unapologetically bad for you but oh, so good

Finally reaching the oasis, I couldn't help but bust out in an anticipatory grin at the genius of Eli's Donut Burger. Photo by Paul Gregersen/FOCUS1 / 3
Brent Carlson-Lee, owner of Eli's Donut Burger, is more than willing to lend a hand in helping fair-goers put on a few pounds while at the fair. Photo by Paul Gregersen/FOCUS2 / 3
This is the face of ecstacy. Photo by Paul Gregersen/FOCUS3 / 3

When I heard about Brent Carlson-Lee's fair food creation, Eli's Donut Burgers, I erupted with joy.

Besides the ladies, my two favorite things in the world are donuts and burgers. The idea of this combination rumbled my innards.

The Focus staff kicked story ideas around for the donut burger and finally came to the conclusion that this food item represented what is equally right and wrong about America.

Well, after eating one, I think I ate it. There's photographic evidence, but I took a first bite and the next thing I knew, it was gone.

The donut burger is single-handedly what is right about America. It is America. I could not find anything wrong about it. I wanted another immediately.

That's much more than I can say for the country.

Carlson-Lee grew up around these parts. He is originally from Fergus Falls. This is a brand new venture for him.

Up until last Friday, he was doing new product development in the field of corporate food in Edina. When his position was moved to Chicago, he was offered the promotion and relocation to Illinois.

"I was kind of hesitant to tell everyone at work what I was going to do," he said. "Thanks everybody! You gave me the knowledge to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a carny."

Carlson-Lee's sense of humor and wit are as rich as the guiltiest pleasure in an arena of guilty pleasures--his donut burger in a crowd of corn dogs and cheese curds.

"That's what people love about it. It's over the top. You know it's really bad for you," he said.

What are fairs for? Nobody is attending the EOT Fair for healthy food. Carlson-Lee knows this and caters his menu as such.

"I don't sell diet coke. Just coke. Diet doesn't fit."

It would sound rather odd to order a donut burger, some sweet potato fries and a small diet cola.

The idea for the donut burger came from a sign he once saw. Carlson-Lee was looking at a storefront across a street and this particular joint served both donuts and burgers. Their sign placement, however, made it appear as if it said 'donut burgers.'

"That's a great idea!" Carlson-Lee exclaimed.

His expertise in the field of food allowed him to draw on a history of spending weeks at a time and thousands of dollars to come up with names and complete product research.

"Now, I just say let's do this," Carlson-Lee laughed. "It's kind of refreshing."

It did take awhile to figure out the right kind of donut and other kinks, like most condiments don't work.

"Bacon and cheese, that's what works. Ketchup ruins it."

When genius and innovation strike at the same time it can be a solo mission to bring it to fruition. Brent took his idea and just ran with it. He was applying to participate in fairs statewide before he even owned the trailer he works out of.

He used a picture of a trailer from the Internet and some graphics to convince people he was up and ready for business.

He was not biting off more than he could chew. He's started at smaller fairs and is working toward the crowd of 2 million at the Minnesota State fair in the future.

"I wanted to do something smaller to work out the kinks," he said. "This fair is close to home and a little more relaxed."

The donut burger is $4.50 plus 50 cents each for bacon and cheese.

Take it from myself and my photographer Paul. Get the bacon and cheese.

Carlson-Lee claimed he is getting used to eating fatty food in this new line of work.

I, on the other hand, want to get used to Carlson-Lee's donut burger.

If you do anything at the EOT Fair this weekend, try one.

Robert Williams

Sports Editor at the Detroit Lakes Tribune. Williams worked prior as the Sports Editor in Perham for the Focus, a Forum Communications newspaper, from 2010-14. 

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