Houston Chef of the Month for February: Hugo Ortega

Hugo Ortega
Hugo Ortega

HOUSTON – Hugo Ortega 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 and began his career in the restaurant industry as a dishwasher and busboy at Backstreet Cafe before graduating from culinary school and later becoming its executive chef and owner, along with wife Tracy Vaught.

His American Dream continued when they opened Hugo's in 2002. In 2013 they opened Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen, in Houston's Galleria area.

Hugo has published two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega's Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe (2013).

He was a five-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious James Beard Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). 

Hugo is one of Houston's most acclaimed chefs and believes that a chef is only as good as the last meal he cooked. He remains a fixture in his three restaurant kitchens, is an avid bicyclist, and enjoys spending time at the beach with his family.

Click here to see Hugo's recipe of red snapper ceviche.