Food News

Now open: a Sydney taco truck by former Taco King chef Toby Wilson

After exiting his much-loved taqueria at The George, the chef is trucking on.

By Yvonne C Lam
The Ricos Tacos truck, located at the Gelato Messina carpark in Rosebery, Sydney.
From a poky Chinatown basement food court to a pub kitchen kitted out with an al pastor, no venue is too big or small for Toby Wilson. But now the chef behind taco eateries Ghostboy Cantina and Taco King is looking beyond the four walls and getting onto four wheels instead.
Since exiting Taco King at The George Hotel in Waterloo, Wilson has commandeered a food truck, slapped it with a Ricos Tacos sign, and parked it at the Gelato Messina factory in Rosebery.
It's from here that he'll be serving his take on Mexico's greatest culinary export with inspiration from Los Angeles food-truck culture. "There's a super-fast, lo-fi, street-side, late-night feel, true to what you'll get in LA," he says. And taco carts in Mexico are often plastered with their "Ricos Tacos" credentials – Spanish for "delicious tacos".
So it's about quality, not quantity; ergo, the short, sharp and simple menu. The cauliflower taco, made famous from his Ghostboy Cantina days, returns with the fried brassica, agave tahini, chipotle salt and salsa piled onto a corn tortilla. "It just borrows ingredients from all over Mexico, but it's not particular to a region," he says.
Ricos Tacos' chorizo "al pastor" taco. Courtesy of Gelato Messina
The beef birria, however, hails from Jalisco, a state on the mid-west coast of Mexico. Variations of the stew may feature goat, lamb or mutton instead, but whatever the choice of protein it's simmered in a heady mix of chillies, spices, tomato and oregano. "It's a very warming red-chilli paste braise," says Wilson. "There are big dried chillies [guajillo and ancho] there to add sweetness, depth and complexity."
The chorizo "al pastor" combines his two favourite tacos from Mexico City: the chorizo con papas and pork al pastor (a Mexican style of cooking on a vertical spit introduced by Lebanese immigrants). The house-made chorizo is similar to what you'll find in Mexico – a loose, crumbly, ground mince – in contrast to the dried sausage links of the Spanish canon. It's mixed with the same chilli-and-vinegar marinade Wilson used on The George's al pastor, and served with onion, pineapple and salsa.
Ricos Tacos chef-owner Toby Wilson. Photo: Matt Davis
But why a food truck? The meals-on-wheels model made a blip on Sydney's food scene around the late 2000s; they were par for the course at music festivals and outdoor events. But save for a few operators, the plates being dished from these trucks was forgettable; at best, novel. And with mass outdoor gatherings now relics of a bygone era, few would consider a food truck a sound business decision. But for Wilson, it's the low-touch nature that appeals. Gelato Messina is providing the operational support in sourcing the truck, and a kitchen where Wilson can do his food preparation.
Wilson opened his first cafe when he was just 23. Nine years later, he's still got fuel in the tank to power his creativity, but is less enthused about the rigamarole of restaurant administration and finances. He uses The George as an example. "We did well, sometimes 800 tacos a day. But because of COVID, it collapsed. You never really know what can happen," he says. "That's why this concept is great […] I have the freedom to do what I want."
Freedom, yes, but it's not all unbridled. As a non-Mexican person making a career out of a food culture that's not his own, he presses the importance of paying "respect" to Mexican cuisine. He regularly travels to Mexico to learn from producers, chefs and mezcaleros, and once consumed 30 tacos in 24 hours, such is his commitment to field research. Pre-pandemic, he was due to visit the country in August. "[But] on the ground here in Australia I make sure that the business supports Mexican businesses by choosing Mexican-owned and -operated producers, importers and suppliers," he says.
As for the future, "It's super open-ended," says Wilson. "If things go well, I might get my own truck and trailer. It seems really silly at this time to commit anything 100 per cent." For now though, the taco king will just keep trucking on.
Ricos Tacos is at the Gelato Messina carpark, 58 Mentmore Ave, Rosebery, NSW.
Open Thu 5–9pm, Fri noon–9pm, Sat noon–9pm, Sun noon until sold out.
Follow on Instagram @ricostacotruck
Watch video below: Toby Wilson make fish finger tacos.