The Dallas Business Journal reports the founder of Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Paul Willis, died Wednesday night at his home in Fort Worth. He was 48. The cause of death is unknown. Willis founded the now burgeoning taco chain in 2001 near TCU in Fort Worth. He sold his restaurant in 2003 to restaurateurs, Alan and Chuck Bush, who rolled the kitschy concept across 10 states. There are currently 73 locations. DFW.com reports Willis’ family said he was a diabetic and had quadruple bypass surgery two years ago.
Update: This information was just released:
Paul Willis, the longtime restaurateur who was involved in a number of other DFW, Houston, Memphis, Oklahoma City, and Las Vegas restaurants, including Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Yucatan Taco Stand, and Gas Monkey Bar n Grille, was found dead in his Fort Worth home Wednesday night. He was 48. The cause of death was heart related.His sister, LeeAnn Willis, said. “He used to come up with all kinds of creations that he would cook on holidays for the family. He just had a passion for cooking.”Born Jan. 14, 1966, Mr. Willis grew up in the Netherlands where his father was in the aircraft repair business. He attended the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Often Mr. Willis would design the concept and/or the menu, and move on to his next project.In 2001, sensing a need in the TCU-area college market, he opened the original Fuzzy’s Taco Shop. 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. 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 in Fort Worth in 2008, which has now grown with franchises now in The Woodlands and Oklahoma city with two more opening in DFW next year; He was also involved in Pedro’s Trailer Park, Buffalo Gap Steakhouse, Buffalo Cantina Mexican Kitchen & Tequileria, Buffalo West, Ruby Tuesdays, Black Eye Pea, and also worked for a year as personal chef for country singer Toby Keith.Mr. Willis’ last project was Gas Monkey Bar n Grill in Dallas, which he was involved in from April to July of 2013. The Gas Monkey Bar N Grille (GMBG), a themed restaurant in Dallas after the hit Discover Channel show Fast and Loud with Richard Rawlings. Corporate chef, David Hollister, completed the menu after Paul left the project. Paul was the inspiration and driving force behind the design, look and feel of the restaurant from inception. The interior is made up of reclaimed wood and metal features giving it a modern industrial vibe.Per Ben E. Keith, that Gas Monkey Bar n Grill, is largest volume opening they’ve had in the Metroplex in the past 20 years.His talent went far beyond the kitchen. He was a true genius who truly understood food, design, concepts and what works in which marketplace. He will be missed.