Courtesy: H Town Restaurant Group
Hugo knows a thing or two about always having something going on. 2017 was the year of Hugo Ortega in Houston: Just over three months after Xochi opened its doors, he won the
I learn from everybody, every day of my life.
H Town Restaurant Group
Hugo Ortega’s Houston Restaurants
Backstreet Cafe New American cuisine was never so cozy as in this gorgeous converted 1930s River Oaks home. Enjoy cocktails, a broad menu, and a quaint patio at this beloved neighborhood café. 1103 S Shepherd Dr, 713-521-2239 backstreetcafe.net H Town Restaurant Group
I like to listen.
the kind of food people want to eat. I also believe that all three of us are inspired by the city itself,” he says. “Hugo highlights the Mexican culture from the region he’s from. It opened a lot of people’s eyes about authentic Mexican food—not Tex-Mex, not a fusion cuisine of some sort. And he cooks from the heart, and it shows.” Fellow chefs aren’t the only ones bestowing accolades. On June 20th, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner paid tribute to one of his city’s most successful sons, declaring it Chef Hugo Ortega Day in Bayou City. Hugo was here when his city needed him most, too. When Hurricane Harvey’s inundatory rainwater displaced thousands of Houstonians and shuttered many businesses for weeks, Hugo and his team were back in the kitchen as soon as possible, working to serve their people. “We opened up three of the four restaurants on Tuesday after the storm, and one on Wednesday,” Tracy recalls. “We did it with a lot of love and support of our city,” Hugo adds. “It’s what makes us who we are. At the end of the day, we’re cooks. I felt a sense of responsibility to somehow get together and cook for a great city.” Houston holds their star chef in the same high regard: Three of his restaurants grace the Houston Chronicle’s list of the city’s best. Celebrating a year—and a lifetime—of extraordinary achievements, chef Hugo shares a satisfyingly authentic approach. “The only thing you can do is trust yourself,” he says. “Trust your flavors, trust all of those hours that you have put in this wonderful culinary world. And the most important thing: Trust your heart.”
Hugo’s Recognized as one of the best restaurants in the city, this upscale Montrose hotspot features regional interior cuisine alongside a fantastic spirits and wine list. 1600 Westheimer, 713-524-7744 hugosrestaurant.net Deb Small
James Beard and Beyond
James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southwest, becoming the first Mexican-born chef to take home the culinary equivalent of an Oscar. He was the third Houston chef to bring down the prize in four years, following Chris Shepherd in 2014 and Justin Yu in 2016. To chef Shepherd, the trio of Houston winners shares a common bond. “I think the three of us represent Houstonians and
Caracol Look no further than Caracol for phenomenal coastal cuisine. This celebrated seafood restaurant shines across its menu, wine list, and oyster bar. 2200 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 160, 713-622-9996 caracol.net Julie Soefer
meaningful for me to listen to them, to pay attention to what they tell me.” Hugo’s strong connection to the people with whom he works transcends borders. In 2016, H Town Restaurant Group partnered with chef Rodolfo Castellanos, whose Oaxaca City restaurant, Origen, serves local, sustainable cuisine to its guests. “I pay attention to what Rodolfo says and maintain a close contact with the people of Oaxaca,” Hugo relates. “When you go to Oaxaca, it’s like going back in time. The people are friendly, and the city of Oaxaca is very mystic—it celebrates life, and there is always something going on.”
Xochi Houston’s finest. Visit this swank downtown eatery to experience chef Hugo’s homage to the great cuisine of Oaxaca. 1777 Walker Street, Suite A, 713-400-3330 xochihouston.com
H O U S TO N H OT E L M A G A Z I N E