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Southlake Style

3 Names To Know In Food

Aug 27, 2015 11:43AM ● By Dia

By Amy Reisner

Photos by BluDoor Studios and Jamie Handy 

It has to start some- where. Noshing on a favorite dish at a neighborhood dining hotspot or enjoying a cold beer at a nearby brewery, you might wonder how it all began. We caught up with three local families in the food and drink industry and learned a thing or two about the beginnings of a family-owned business. Whether it’s the ambition of one entrepreneur, the joint effort of a husband and wife, or the desire of a child to carry on her father’s legacy, it takes support from family to pursue a dream. 


 Being diagnosed with cancer was a wake-up call for Scott Wooley, founder and owner of SoCal Tacos in Grapevine. But maybe not in the sense you’d think. It wasn’t until the cancer miraculously went away that Wooley and his wife, Susan, decided to pursue their foodie ambitions. They hoped to not only bring authentic Southern California fish tacos to Grapevine, but most importantly, to be a testimony to others.

“In 2010 I was diagnosed with a nerve tumor in my left shoulder,” Wooley says. “I was told chemo, radiation and surgery were not an option. I was dying. One day our pas- tor prayed that God would heal me, and the next day I woke up with no pain.”

Wooley went to see the neurosurgeon September 23 and the doctor was amazed at how well he looked. When Wooley returned October 30, the doctor said the tumor was gone.

“My wife and I didn’t know what that meant – if it was going to come back,” Wool- ey says. “But we did know that we had a tes- timony to share with others and give them hope.”

Being the foodies that they are, Wooley and his wife decided the best way to “love on people”  

 would be through food. “Food is a universal language; it breaks down barriers,” he says.

SoCal Tacos was created in the Wooley’s kitchen, essentially out of a craving for au- thentic Southern California fish tacos not to be found anywhere they looked. Cashing in all their chips, as Scott puts it, they entered the restaurant business starting with a food truck in 2011. And in 2013 they opened up shop in Grapevine.

“Our company culture is to ‘Give love, re- ceive love and repeat the process,’” Wooley says. “If we can testify our story through food, then we can give hope to others.” 

GARY HUMBLE - Grapevine Craft Brewery

 With the craft beer business boom- ing over the past few years, many home brewers’ dreams have turned into realities. But as Gary Humble, founder and owner of Grapevine Craft Brewery  knows – you don’t get far without an entrepreneurial spirit.

Humble remembers the moment he knew he was ready to take his home brewing hobby to the next level. “It was a Saturday morning epiphany in 2012,” he recalls. “At that moment, I knew I wanted to pursue my brewing beyond my garage. I jumped in headfirst, as I tend to do, and the right doors opened.”

What Humble remembers most about the year he would start his business is the support he had from his wife, Andrea. Not just his go-to taste-tester, his wife was also a sounding board for all Humble would need to hash out if Grapevine Craft Brewery was to become a reality.

“We were pregnant with our second son while I was going about starting our brew- ery—officing 

 out of the home,” Humble re- calls. “At the time, I had a one-year-old son, and he’d crawl around the room while I worked. For the year that this business was started, I was in the middle of my family, and it really feels like we did it all together.”

Now three years later, Humble still feels the support of his family throughout the busyness of daily life. “My wife is in- credibly supportive, and my boys love the brewery. They are enamored with larger- than-life tanks and forklifts. They’ve been around it their whole lives—it’s all they’ve ever known.” 

KATHLEEN TOLBERT RYAN - Tolbert’s Restaurant 

 Chili. Ingredients and preparation of the heat- edly discussed dish are often hashed out at family reunions throughout the country. In other words, people, specifically Texans, are pretty particular about their chili.

But Frank X. Tolbert Sr., a notable historian and author who worked for The Dallas Morning News for more than 30 years, decided to make order out of culinary chaos in the late 1960s, according to his daughter Kathleen Tolbert Ryan. And he used the chili con carne recipe he created and documented in his book, A Bowl of Red: The History of Chili.

Tolbert Sr. founded the World Chili Cham- pionship in Terlingua, Texas, with Wick Fowler in 1967. Some say this would be the catalyst for all chili cook-offs to come. But it wouldn’t be until 1976 that Tolbert Sr., along with his son Frank X. Tolbert, would bring a Bowl of Red to the Dallas masses.

The original Tolbert’s was located in the heart of downtown Dallas on Main Street across from El 

 Centro community college. Ryan, who at the time was working toward a master’s degree in special education at the University of Texas at Dallas, would later find herself attending culinary school at El Centro in 1977—when she began working at the restaurant.

“It was a wonderful experience working at that first Tolbert’s,” Ryan says. “That is what made me want to continue on with the restau- rant, and eventually open the Grapevine loca- tion with my husband in 2006.”

The restaurant continues to keep its fam- ily-owned atmosphere. Ryan’s son, Steven Frank Ryan, has been working at Tolbert’s in Grapevine for many years. He started as a bus- boy and has now become a manager.

Of course, Tolbert’s features its famous Bowl of Red (chili con carne), along with char- grilled steaks and burgers, signature salads, tortilla soup and many other Southwestern and homegrown specialties.