The Particular Genius of a Taco
Sep 27, 2018
When filmmaker David Gorvy moved to Austin, he didn’t know a single soul. On his first night, he wandered the streets of downtown aimlessly. “I turn the corner and see this food truck on 2nd and Congress that was just one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen,” Gorvy told The Atlantic. “It was a hole in the wall, except in the form of a food truck.”
The truck was selling tuna tacos. For lack of something better to do, Gorvy tried one. “It was the single greatest taco I’d ever had,” he said. “I’m still so obsessed with them that now—six years later—I decided to make a film about them.”
As it turned out, that delicious little taco had a big backstory. Gorvy’s short documentary, A Taco Told In Texas, is the story of Ralph Gilmore, a man with an eighth-grade education who became a millionaire and lost it all—twice over—before trying his hand at what are now considered to be among the world’s finest fish tacos.
As Matthew Odam, Austin American-Statesman’s restaurant critic, puts it: “Who takes a cargo container, cuts the windows out, cuts the floor out, puts in a stove, puts it on a trailer, takes it to the middle of Congress Avenue, and starts cooking fish tacos out of a food truck looked like it had been dredged up from the Gulf of Mexico?”
Although Ralph Gilmore himself had no experience as a chef—his previously successful careers were in designing custom-built motorcycles, and then luxury homes—the Gilmore surname is a mainstay in the Austin foodie scene. “Jack Gilmore, Ralph’s brother, is quite possibly the most successful chef in Austin,” Gorvy said, “and Bryce Gilmore, Jack’s son, is arguably the most praised chef in Austin.” Together, the Gilmores form a triad that Gorvy describes as encompassing “very distinct segments” of the city’s culinary culture.
Gilmore’s impetuous nature may have cost him two fortunes—“Ralph’s pretty murky on the details of how he lost his money,” said Gorvy, “but I’m pretty sure his ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality got the best of him”—but what he lost in material wealth, he gained in ingenuity.
“A taco is just a platform for your creativity,” says Mike Sutter, an expert interviewed in the film. “A taco becomes what you want it to become.”
Author: Emily Buder
About This Series
A showcase of cinematic short documentary films, curated by The Atlantic.