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Tracy Vaught


In 1983, geologist-turned-restaurateur Tracy decided to forsake the plotting of America’s geothermal energy fields for a more people-oriented profession when she opened her first restaurant, Backstreet Cafe, with her uncle in an old house on the edge of Houston’s River Oaks. It was the turning point of her career and life. She met and married Hugo Ortega, whom she hired to work at Backstreet Cafe, and together they have opened Hugo’s (2002), Caracol (2013), Xochi (2017) and URBE (2021), and published two cookbooks: “Hugo Ortega’s Street Food of Mexico” (2012) and “Backstreet Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes from Our Neighborhood Cafe” (2013). The Houston native was inducted into the Texas Restaurant Association’s Hall of Honor in August 2020; is a four-time semi-finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur for the James Beard Foundation Awards; named Outstanding Restaurateur of the Year by the Texas Restaurant Association; and has been recognized by Houston Business Journal with a Most Admired CEO Award and Women Mean Business Award.  She was also named Restaurateur of the Year at the Houston Culinary Awards, and selected to serve on a special three-person “She Means Business” panel event sponsored by Facebook.  Tracy is currently a board member of the Texas Restaurant Association, Houston Food Bank and Better Business Bureau.  Tracy is also part owner of Prego restaurant in Rice Village and Origen restaurant in Oaxaca, Mexico.  Tracy and Hugo were approached by celebrity chef Michael Mina in 2017 to do a “pop-up” concept at his Mina Test Kitchen in San Francisco, and Mi Almita was born.  Remove: The concept is currently open in Honolulu and opening soon in Los Angeles.   They and their team also created the menu for Hugo’s Cocina which is located in Terminal C at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.