Australian Dictionary of Biography

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McEncroe, Francis Gerald (Frank) (1908–1979)

by David Dunstan

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

Francis Gerald (Frank) McEncroe (1908-1979), inventor of the Chiko roll, was born on 11 October 1908 at Castlemaine, Victoria, second son of Victorian-born parents Pierce Francis McEncroe, wheelwright, and his wife Sarah Ann, née Desmond. Frank was educated at a local primary school and at Marist Brothers' College, Bendigo. Having obtained his merit certificate, he completed an apprenticeship in boiler-making at Thompson's foundry, Castlemaine, and continued to work there for a time.

In the Depression McEncroe joined his father and two brothers, who had set up a dairy farm and milk-processing and distributing business at Bendigo. On 20 August 1932 he married with Catholic rites Anne Doreen Nolan at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bendigo. From the late 1930s he ran an outdoor catering business, selling pies, pasties and hamburgers at country shows, race meetings and other gatherings. During World War II he was licensee (1940-47) of the Court House Hotel in Pall Mall, while also working as a boiler-maker at the Bendigo Ordnance Factory.

After the war McEncroe resumed his outdoor catering business, processing, packaging and snap-freezing his products at the former dairy. In 1950, inspired by the Chinese chop-suey roll, which he saw being sold outside the Richmond football ground, he developed a similar product, subsequently called the 'Chiko roll'. Initially made by a hand-fed machine and promoted as a take-away snack, it was acclaimed in 1951 at the Wagga Wagga show, New South Wales.

That year McEncroe moved with his family to Melbourne and began producing Chiko rolls from the rear of a fish-shop in Moreland Road, Coburg. Following the success of his product, he moved into a factory at North Essendon, progressively modernized its machinery, and improved facilities for packaging, freezing and distribution. In 1960 his firm amalgamated with the neighbouring Floyds ice-works to form Frozen Food Industries Pty Ltd which became a public company in 1963.

McEncroe was fond of shooting and fishing in his early years. Later in life he was a competent golfer who played at the Medway Golf Club, Melbourne, and Tweed Heads Golf Club, New South Wales. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, he died of ischaemic heart disease on 14 March 1979 in Melbourne and was buried in Keilor cemetery. His estate was sworn for probate at $239,681.

The Chiko roll—a mixture of cabbage, barley, carrots, celery, condiments and meat (beef or mutton) wrapped in an egg-batter dough—proved a huge success in the rapidly expanding market for 'fast foods' in Australia in the 1950s and 1960s. The ingredients were diced and extruded into a long tube of pastry which was cooked as it moved along the production line. It was then deep-fried and frozen before being distributed. Further deep-frying was necessary only to reheat the roll. Typically obtained at local outlets, especially fish-and-chip shops, it was convenient both to sell and to eat in a variety of outdoor settings. At the time of McEncroe's death Australians consumed up to 40 million Chiko rolls annually, and more than a million were exported to Japan. Ownership of Frozen Food Industries of Australia Ltd subsequently passed through Provincial Traders Ltd and General Jones Pty Ltd to Petersville Sleigh Ltd.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Symons, One Continuous Picnic (Adel, 1982)
  • Age (Melbourne), 15 Mar 1979
  • Bendigo Advertiser, 20 Mar 1979
  • National Times, 21-27 Dec 1980
  • private information.

Citation details

David Dunstan, 'McEncroe, Francis Gerald (Frank) (1908–1979)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mcencroe-francis-gerald-frank-10946/text19451, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 21 December 2014.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (MUP), 2000

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