Hugo Ortega - Hawaii Food & Wine Festival


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Hugo Ortega

Mi Almita Cantina at The Street Food Hall by Michael Mina - Houston, TX

The Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards, Hugo Ortega started with very humble beginnings. 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, Ortega left Mexico for Houston and began his hospitality career as dishwasher/busboy at Backstreet Cafe before graduating culinary school and becoming its executive chef and owner, along with wife Tracy Vaught. His American Dream continued when they opened Hugo’s, Caracol and Xochi. Hugo is author of two cookbooks, “Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico” and “Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Café.” The Ortegas are investors in Origen restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico, created the menu for Hugo’s Cocina at George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and have partnered with celebrity chef Michael Mina to create a new concept, Mi Almita, currently open in Honolulu and opening soon in Los Angeles.