Chef Hugo Ortega is bringing a James Beard medal to Houston. After six nominations for the prestigious James Beard Awards, Ortega was named Best Chef Southwest 2017 last night at a black-tie gala in Chicago.
“Oh my goodness, what a moment,” Ortega said upon taking the stage at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He dedicated his award to “the great city of Houston,” his family and staff and concluded by saying: “What can I say? America is beautiful and I’m living the dream.”
Ortega, whose authentic Mexican cuisine shines at Hugo’s, Caracol and the recently opened Xochi, was up against another Houston chef and first-time nominee, Jianyun Ye of Mala Sichuan Bistro. Chefs Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine in Austin, Steve McHugh of Cured in San Antonio, Steve Redzikowski of Acorn in Denver, and Martín Rios of Restaurant Martín in Santa Fe, were also finalists in the same category.
Ortega’s win is the fourth for a Houston chef in the Best Chef Southwest category of the renowned culinary awards. Justin Yu was named Best Chef Southwest last year for the now closed Oxheart, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly won the award in 2014, and Robert Del Grande won for Cafe Annie in 1992.
If you’re curious to know more about Ortega, read about why tortillas are so meaningful to him and what he loves about Houston. You may also want to try a taste of his cuisine at home with his flautas de pollo recipe.