Paul Walcutt '97: Tacoprenuer
Walcutt discusses his journey from Texan criminal defense attorney to Australian taco purveyor.
Paul Walcutt ’97 had an early start in the food business. By age 8, he was busing tables at his late father’s chain of Austin, Texas-based barbecue restaurants. “My last gig when I came home from college in the summer was bartending, which isn’t bad,” Walcutt says.
At age 20, he announced that he would never again work in a restaurant with family. Some two and a half decades later, Paul and his wife, Katherine (Kady) Simkins, launched Dingo Ate My Taco, a burgeoning food truck operation based in Melbourne, Australia.
“My dad would get a big kick out of this,” says Walcutt, who calls himself a “tacopreneur.” A history major at Haverford, Walcutt worked for a few years in advertising, was a bartender in Philadelphia, then decided law was the path to take. He met Simkins his first week at Tulane Law School. The couple graduated together in 2006 and moved to Austin. “She worked with juveniles with mental health issues,” explains Walcutt, “and I was a criminal defense attorney.” After 12 years, he burned out.
“Most of the people who get caught up in the criminal justice system don’t have anyone to throw them a life preserver,” he says, “so a big part of the job was explaining to them how to extricate themselves from their situations. Just because you give advice, it doesn’t mean that people will hear it. I just found it very difficult after a while and I needed to walk away.”
The restaurant business looked more appealing, as did Australia. Simkins was born in the United States, but grew up in Alice Springs, Australia. “Kady was roped into living in Texas for 12 years, so it was her turn to choose our landing spot,” Walcutt says.
The couple and their children, David (age 10) and Dylan (age 6), settled in Melbourne in 2019. In July 2020, Dingo Ate My Taco was born. Everything is made fresh in the truck, which separates their business from others, says Walcutt. The truck splits time between two Melbourne locations, and on other days customers pick up orders from a small commercial kitchen. (Walcutt is also launching a sit-down restaurant in Melbourne).
Given Walcutt’s TexMex roots, smoked brisket is a food truck menu staple, along with several vegan and vegetarian choices. The most popular item is Birria Quesataco, a half quesadilla/half taco that’s dipped in soup derived from brisket and spices. For an Australian spin, the menu has included lamb taco and kangaroo asada, along with wallaby that’s added to the pork chorizo. The food is extremely popular, with wait times averaging 30 to 45 minutes. “As long as you tell customers what’s going on, they’re happy,” Walcutt says. “If the food wasn’t any good, it wouldn’t work.”