Hugo Ortega

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 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, serving regional Mexican cuisine in 2002, Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen, in 2013, and Xochi, celebrating the food, drink and culture of Oaxaca, in 2017.  Hugo has published two cookbooks: Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico (2012) and Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe (2013). He is a six-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious James Beard Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017).  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, and is an avid cyclist.

Owner & Executive Chef

H Town Restaurant Group
Houston, Texas