2018 Talent

Hugo Ortega

Owner/Chef, Hugo's

Hugo Ortega is executive chef of three of Houston’s top restaurants – Hugo’s, Caracol and Backstreet Café, which he owns with wife Tracy Vaught. Ortega is a three-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious James Beard Awards (2012, 2013, 2014), and author of two cookbooks, Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Café (2013). He was raised in Mexico City and Puebla, Mexico, and learned his love of cooking from his mother and grandmother, a revered mole maker. At age 17, he left Mexico for Houston, where he began his career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher and busboy at Backstreet Cafe before graduating from the Culinary Arts Program at Houston Community College and later becoming its executive chef. His American Dream continued when they opened his namesake Hugo’s in 2002, and their newest award-winning restaurant Caracol opened in 2013.