|Paul Willis, the longtime Fort Worth restaurateur who founded Fuzzy's Taco Shop and
was involved in a number of other North Texas restaurants, was found dead at his home
Wednesday night. He was 48.
The cause of death had not been posted by Thursday night, but his family said he had
diabetes and had quadruple bypass surgery two years ago.
Mr. Willis was a force in the Tarrant County restaurant industry, having helped design
H3Ranch, Cabo and Lucile's, as well as founding Fuzzy's and Yucatan Taco Stand.
Born Jan. 14, 1966, Mr. Willis grew up in the Netherlands where his father was
in the aircraft repair business. According to a 2001 Star-Telegram profile, after
Mr. Willis graduated from L.D. Bell High School in Hurst in 1984, he went to work
as a hotel chef in Florida, then moved on to Will Rogers Downs in Oklahoma before
returning to Fort Worth, where he worked at the River House, a popular seafood
spot on University Drive in the '80s.
He enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., but ran out o
f money two months short of graduation and returned to DFW, working at the Hyatt
Regency in Dallas. Soon he returned to Fort Worth, working with the outfit that o
wned the River House, Lucile's, Cabo and H3Ranch.
Later, he and M&M Steakhouse owner Keith Kidwell bought Margie's Italian Gardens
in far west Fort Worth, where Mr. Willis upgraded the menu, according to the
In 2001, sensing a need in the TCU-area college market, he opened the original
Fuzzy's Taco Shop on West Berry Street near South University Drive. Soon after,
he opened Pedro's Trailer Park on White Settlement Road, in the space that later
housed Lambert's and is about to be home to Clay Pigeon.
Although Pedro's closed in 2004, Fuzzy's has thrived since father-and-son team
Alan and Chuck Bush bought out the original location in 2003. Chuck Bush loved
Willis' concept, which has since developed into a franchise, beginning with a
second Fuzzy's in 2007 on Race Street in the Riverside area of Fort Worth.
The company has grown to nearly 80 locations, many of them in Texas but some as
far as Wisconsin and South Carolina.
Mr. Willis kept going, founding Yucatan Taco Stand on West Magnolia Avenue in
2008; Buffalo Gap Steakhouse and Cantina in Granbury in 2010; Buffalo Cantina
Mexican Kitchen & Tequileria on Texas 360 between Arlington and Euless in 2011
(a second location opened in Southlake in 2012). Often Mr. Willis would design
the concept and/or the menu, then leave the restaurant in the hands of others
and move on to his next project.
He also worked for a year as personal chef for country singer Toby Keith.
His latest project, developed with owners Paul McKinney and Justin McWilliams,
was Buffalo West on Camp Bowie Boulevard in far west Fort Worth.
"He was just extremely creative, and probably worked harder than most people,"
said McWilliams, who also worked with Mr. Willis on Yucatan Taco Stand. "He was
one of the most talented people I'd ever worked with."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Thursday . Published in Star-Telegram on Dec. 13, 2013