Houston's Hugo Ortega Wins James Beard Award
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After six nominations, Houston culinary big shot chef Hugo Ortega has finally won a James Beard Award. The mind behind Hugo's, Caracol and Xochi was selected as Best Chef: Southwest in Chicago Monday night.
Ortega dedicated the award to the City of Houston. "What can I say?" Ortega told the crowd as he accepted the award. "America is beautiful, and I am living the dream."
Ortega immigrated to Houston in 1984 from Mexico. Undocumented and unable to speak English, he began work as a dishwasher. He quickly climbed through the ranks, working his way through culinary school at Houston Community College. Ortega partnered with restaurateur Tracey Vaught, who recognized Ortega's talents in the early days of his career. In addition to building one of Houston's preeminent restaurant groups together, the two are married and have a daughter, Sophia, who is studying at Tulane.
Ortega's win is the third James Beard Award for Houston in four years.