HOUSTON — The Houston food scene is sizzling!
Four of the finalists for the James Beard national awards are from Houston and two are even brothers. H-town is also the star of this season's hit TV series "Top Chef."
Chef Hugo Ortega is a veteran of the food industry’s most prestigious honors.
“I got nominated six times for 'Best Chef Southwest,' six consecutive years. On the sixth nomination, I won."
That was 2017 for a regional award. Now Hugo's restaurant is nominated for a national award in Outstanding Hospitality.
The recognition is earned after opening six restaurants in twenty years. Hugo and his wife Tracy opened and operate Backstreet Café, Hugo’s, Caracol, Prego, Third Coast and Xochi’s where two of his brothers also work.
On the day we visited, Jose Luis was working the grill and Ruben was whipping up a chocolate peanut butter dessert with edible flowers. Ruben, by the way, is nominated for Best Pastry Chef, also a national category.
Hugo and Ruben started on the Houston restaurant scene in the 1990s. Both are graduates of HCC’s Culinary program.
“We are HCC alums and we try to bring as many H.C.C. students and cooks that graduate from there as we can," Ruben said.
Other James Beard finalists from H-Town include:
Some of Houston's best chefs have been part of Bravo's current "Top Chef" series, shot entirely in Houston.
Top Chef highlights Houston as one of the most diverse cities in the country with a huge variety of foods from all over the world.
Chef Hugo Ortega served as a guest judge in one episode.
“To be able to say a little bit of you what you know, taste the food.”
But he prefers being a contestant since he can do what he loves most.
The James Beard winners will be announced in June.