At the 2017 Southern Foodways Symposium this past weekend, SFA honored Houston chef Hugo Ortega with the 2017 Craig Claiborne Lifetime Achievement Award.

Born in Mexico City, Mexico, Hugo Ortega immigrated to the United States in 1984. Ortega began his Houston restaurant career as a dishwasher at Backstreet Café. By 1995, he had graduated from culinary school and claimed the title executive chef.

Today, along with his wife, Tracy Vaught, Hugo Ortega owns and operates four Houston restaurants: Backstreet Café, Hugo’s, Caracol, and Xochi.

Our latest documentary short, Hugo, by Pihakis Foodways Filmmaker Ava Lowrey highlights chef Ortega’s journey from dishwasher to James Beard Award-winner.