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Hugo Ortega

Chef/Owner of Hugo's and Backstreet Cafe, Five-time James Beard Awards Finalist

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 Hugo Ortega Biography

Hugo Ortega is executive chef/co-owner of three of Houston’s top restaurants – Backstreet Café, Hugo’s and Caracol. He is a five-time James Beard Awards finalist, among other accolades, has been recognized locally, nationally and globally for his inspirational story and his passion for sharing traditional Mexican cooking and culture.

Ortega’s American Dream story started at Backstreet Cafe, a neighborhood bistro started by Tracy Vaught in 1983. He began his career in the restaurant business first as dishwasher and busboy and later as a line cook before graduating from culinary school and later becoming Backstreet’s executive chef. He and Vaught married, and together, they have created an award-winning Houston restaurant family that also includes Hugo’s and Caracol.

Ortega was born in Mexico City, the oldest of a family of eight children. At 15, he began working at one of several Procter & Gamble factories in Mexico to help support his family. In 1984, he immigrated to Houston with no contacts or job leads, but determined to make a life for himself in America. Slowly, step-by-step, Ortega began to set down roots in the bustling oil capitol. He shared an apartment with several friends, and followed up on leads for jobs in nearby restaurants. He was happy to find his first job, as a dishwasher, at a popular bar and nightclub. While the pay was meager, Ortega grabbed at the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the restaurant business and find contacts to help him improve his English.

Later, Ortega cleaned the floors in office buildings to supplement his income. With an unexpected turn of bad luck, his roommates moved to California and he lost both of his jobs. He had no income and no place to live. A friend asked Hugo if he wanted to wash dishes and Hugo jumped at the chance. The friend took Hugo to Backstreet Cafe, and this is where the turning point of his life happened.

Ortega worked hard, and showed an interest in working in the kitchen. In Mexico, he learned cooking from his mother and grandmother. Ortega was given a position on the line in the Backstreet kitchen, and he continue to advance from there. Impressed by his hard work and dedication, Vaught offered to enroll Ortega in the Culinary Arts program at Houston Community College. He jumped in with both feet.

Ortega graduated from HCC’s Culinary Arts program in November 1992 and assumed the role of chef at Backstreet Café, then executive chef in 1995.

Ortega is passionate about sharing the traditional foods and culture of his native Mexico with diners. In 2002, he opened the critically acclaimed Hugo’s, which brought Authentic Regional Mexican Cuisine to the forefront of dining. In 2013, the Ortega and Vaught opened their third concept, Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen celebrating their love of seafood found along Mexico’s 16 coastal states. Ortega is a five-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the James Beard Foundation Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016); has made three guest chef appearances at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City; and was named “Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year” in 1999 and Chef of the Year in 2012 and 2002 at the Houston Culinary Awards; among other accolades. His restaurants have been named “Top Table” by Bon Appetit; Best Restaurants in America by Eater, one of Houston’s Four Top Latin Restaurants by Forbes Travel Guide, included in “What Makes Houston’s the Next Great American City?” in Smithsonian Magazine, among others. His cookbook Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico was selected by Saveur magazine as one of just six “essential Mexican cookbooks.”

When he is not in the kitchen, Ortega can be found riding the bike trails of Houston and the Texas Hill Country.

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  • HOW TO BOOK Hugo Ortega?

    Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Hugo Ortega for both live and virtual events for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment. Fill out a booking request form for Hugo Ortega, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Hugo Ortega or any other celebrity of your choice.
  • HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO BOOK Hugo Ortega?

    Booking fees for Hugo Ortega, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies between live and virtual events. Other factors that can affect speaker fees include the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. The live and virtual event speaking fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Hugo Ortega, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.
  • WHO IS THE AGENT FOR Hugo Ortega?

    All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Hugo Ortega for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Hugo Ortega for your next private or corporate function.
  • WHAT IS A FULL-SERVICE TALENT BOOKING AGENCY?

    All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Hugo Ortega or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Hugo Ortega or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.
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This website is a resource for event professionals and strives to provide the most comprehensive catalog of thought leaders and industry experts to consider for speaking engagements. A listing or profile on this website does not imply an agency affiliation or endorsement by the talent.

All American Entertainment (AAE) exclusively represents the interests of talent buyers, and does not claim to be the agency or management for any speaker or artist on this site. AAE is a talent booking agency for paid events only. We do not handle requests for donation of time or media requests for interviews, and cannot provide celebrity contact information.

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Hugo Ortega

Chef/Owner of Hugo's and Backstreet Cafe, Five-time James Beard Awards Finalist

Travels From:
Houston, TX, USA
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Hugo Ortega Biography

Hugo Ortega is executive chef/co-owner of three of Houston’s top restaurants – Backstreet Café, Hugo’s and Caracol. He is a five-time James Beard Awards finalist, among other accolades, has been recognized locally, nationally and globally for his inspirational story and his passion for sharing traditional Mexican cooking and culture.

Ortega’s American Dream story started at Backstreet Cafe, a neighborhood bistro started by Tracy Vaught in 1983. He began his career in the restaurant business first as dishwasher and busboy and later as a line cook before graduating from culinary school and later becoming Backstreet’s executive chef. He and Vaught married, and together, they have created an award-winning Houston restaurant family that also includes Hugo’s and Caracol.

Ortega was born in Mexico City, the oldest of a family of eight children. At 15, he began working at one of several Procter & Gamble factories in Mexico to help support his family. In 1984, he immigrated to Houston with no contacts or job leads, but determined to make a life for himself in America. Slowly, step-by-step, Ortega began to set down roots in the bustling oil capitol. He shared an apartment with several friends, and followed up on leads for jobs in nearby restaurants. He was happy to find his first job, as a dishwasher, at a popular bar and nightclub. While the pay was meager, Ortega grabbed at the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the restaurant business and find contacts to help him improve his English.

Later, Ortega cleaned the floors in office buildings to supplement his income. With an unexpected turn of bad luck, his roommates moved to California and he lost both of his jobs. He had no income and no place to live. A friend asked Hugo if he wanted to wash dishes and Hugo jumped at the chance. The friend took Hugo to Backstreet Cafe, and this is where the turning point of his life happened.

Ortega worked hard, and showed an interest in working in the kitchen. In Mexico, he learned cooking from his mother and grandmother. Ortega was given a position on the line in the Backstreet kitchen, and he continue to advance from there. Impressed by his hard work and dedication, Vaught offered to enroll Ortega in the Culinary Arts program at Houston Community College. He jumped in with both feet.

Ortega graduated from HCC’s Culinary Arts program in November 1992 and assumed the role of chef at Backstreet Café, then executive chef in 1995.

Ortega is passionate about sharing the traditional foods and culture of his native Mexico with diners. In 2002, he opened the critically acclaimed Hugo’s, which brought Authentic Regional Mexican Cuisine to the forefront of dining. In 2013, the Ortega and Vaught opened their third concept, Caracol, a Mexican coastal kitchen celebrating their love of seafood found along Mexico’s 16 coastal states. Ortega is a five-time finalist for Best Chef: Southwest at the James Beard Foundation Awards (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016); has made three guest chef appearances at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City; and was named “Up-and-Coming Chef of the Year” in 1999 and Chef of the Year in 2012 and 2002 at the Houston Culinary Awards; among other accolades. His restaurants have been named “Top Table” by Bon Appetit; Best Restaurants in America by Eater, one of Houston’s Four Top Latin Restaurants by Forbes Travel Guide, included in “What Makes Houston’s the Next Great American City?” in Smithsonian Magazine, among others. His cookbook Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico was selected by Saveur magazine as one of just six “essential Mexican cookbooks.”

When he is not in the kitchen, Ortega can be found riding the bike trails of Houston and the Texas Hill Country.

Hugo Ortega Videos

  • Interview with Chef Hugo Ortega from Hugo's, Caracol, and Xochi in ...
    Aug 8, 2018 ... Visit http://worldsofflavor.com for more information HUGO ORTEGA, winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James...
  • Houston's Hugo Ortega wins 2017 James Beard Award - YouTube
    Apr 5, 2018 ... Houston's Hugo Ortega wins 2017 James Beard Award.

Speaker Lists Featuring Hugo Ortega

FAQs on booking Hugo Ortega

  • How to book Hugo Ortega?

    Our booking agents have successfully helped clients around the world secure talent like Hugo Ortega for both live and virtual events for over 15 years. The team at All American Entertainment represents and listens to the needs of organizations and corporations seeking to hire keynote speakers, celebrities or entertainers for speaking engagements, personal appearances, product endorsements, or corporate entertainment. Fill out a booking request form for Hugo Ortega, or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to discuss your upcoming event. One of our experienced agents will be happy to help you get pricing information and check availability for Hugo Ortega or any other celebrity of your choice.
  • How much does it cost to book Hugo Ortega?

    Booking fees for Hugo Ortega, or any other speakers and celebrities, are determined based on a number of factors and may change without notice. Pricing often varies between live and virtual events. Other factors that can affect speaker fees include the talent's schedule, market conditions, length of presentation, and the location of the event. The live and virtual event speaking fees listed on this website are intended to serve as a guideline only. In some cases, the actual quote may be above or below the stated range. For the most current fee to hire Hugo Ortega, please fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536 to speak with an experienced booking agent.
  • Who is the agent for Hugo Ortega?

    All American Entertainment has successfully secured celebrity talent like Hugo Ortega for clients worldwide for more than 15 years. As a full-service talent booking agency, we have access to virtually any speaker or celebrity in the world. Our agents are happy and able to submit an offer to the speaker or celebrity of your choice, letting you benefit from our reputation and long-standing relationships in the industry. Fill out the booking request form or call our office at 1.800.698.2536, and one of our agents will assist you to book Hugo Ortega for your next private or corporate function.
  • What is a full-service talent booking agency?

    All American Speakers is a "buyers agent" and exclusively represents talent buyers, meeting planners and event professionals, who are looking to secure celebrities and speakers for personal appearances, speaking engagements, corporate entertainment, public relations campaigns, commercials, or endorsements. We do not exclusively represent Hugo Ortega or claim ourselves as the exclusive booking agency, business manager, publicist, speakers bureau or management for Hugo Ortega or any other speaker or celebrity on this website. For more information on how we work and what makes us unique, please read the AAE Advantage.

Hugo Ortega is a keynote speaker and industry expert who speaks on a wide range of topics . The estimated speaking fee range to book Hugo Ortega for your event is available upon request. Hugo Ortega generally travels from Houston, TX, USA and can be booked for (private) corporate events, personal appearances, keynote speeches, or other performances. Similar motivational celebrity speakers are Rebecca Wilcomb, Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, Kevin Nashan, Greg Vernick and Marco Canora. Contact All American Speakers for ratings, reviews, videos and information on scheduling Hugo Ortega for an upcoming live or virtual event.

Hugo Ortega Speaker Videos

  • Interview with Chef Hugo Ortega from Hugo's, Caracol, and Xochi in ...
    Aug 8, 2018 ... Visit http://worldsofflavor.com for more information HUGO ORTEGA, winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard ...
    Houston's Hugo Ortega wins 2017 James Beard Award - YouTube
    Apr 5, 2018 ... Houston's Hugo Ortega wins 2017 James Beard Award.

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Speakers Similar to Hugo Ortega

This website is a resource for event professionals and strives to provide the most comprehensive catalog of thought leaders and industry experts to consider for speaking engagements. A listing or profile on this website does not imply an agency affiliation or endorsement by the talent.

All American Entertainment (AAE) exclusively represents the interests of talent buyers, and does not claim to be the agency or management for any speaker or artist on this site. AAE is a talent booking agency for paid events only. We do not handle requests for donation of time or media requests for interviews, and cannot provide celebrity contact information.

If you are the talent, and wish to request removal from this catalog or report an issue with your profile, please click here.

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