Hugo Ortega, executive chef/co-owner of Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe and a three-time finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award (2012, 2013 & 2014), was born in Mexico City, the oldest in a family of eight children. The talented chef has made two guest chef appearances at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City. In July 2002, Ortega and Vaught opened a third restaurant concept, Hugo’s, serving Authentic Regional Mexican Cuisine. Since its opening, Hugo’s has been lauded by local, regional and national media, including being named a “Top Table” by Bon Appetit, listed in “Where to Eat Now in 30 American Cities”, and one of the “Restaurants We Love” by Gourmet. In 2013, Ortega and Vaught opened Caracol, a Coastal Mexican Kitchenin the upscale Galleria area of Houston, eliciting rave reviews from diners and media alike.
The Taste and Savor Questionnaire – Chef Hugo Ortega
Describe your cooking philosophy in one sentence:
Build layers of flavor, use the best ingredients and don't overcook the seafood.
What is your earliest food memory?
My earliest food memory is eating handmade corn tortillas and hot chocolate made by my grandmother, who ground the corn and the chocolate by hand.
Who is or was your biggest culinary influence?
My grandmother, Delia. The richness of the love I feel for cooking goes back to time spent preparing food with grandmother in the mountains of Puebla, Mexico. She taught me the fundamentals of Mexican cooking and also her own special touches. She was a traditional cook, preparing all the dishes typical of the area in the only way she knew how – over wood-burning fires, wrapped in corn husks, everything from scratch. We grew and raised as much of our food as possible. During my time in Puebla, I learned the importance of growing and sourcing your food.
Name your favorite food city and why.
Puebla, Mexico, where my family is from, because it holds so many memories for me and I love the food there. It is all handmade, fresh, seasonal and local. In the countryside especially, everything is about seasonality and rain – Mother Nature determines what you prepare.
What food item or dish is your guilty pleasure?
After a long day, do you prefer wine, beer or a cocktail?
What is your ultimate day off meal?
Seafood gumbo and boiled crabs
Join Hugo Ortega because only the best #TasteandSavor2015