Category Archives: food

The Chef Sessions with Hugo Ortega – Caracol – Houston, TX

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Hugo Ortega is executive chef/co-owner of four of Houston’s top restaurants – Backstreet Cafe, Hugo’s, Caracol and Xochi, and winner of Best Chef: Southwest at the prestigious 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards.  (He was a finalist for the award for six consecutive years, 2012- 2017.)  Ortega has been recognized locally, nationally and globally for his inspirational story and his passion for sharing traditional Mexican cooking and culture.

Ortega’s American Dream story started at Backstreet Cafe, a neighborhood bistro started by Tracy Vaught in 1983. He began his career in the restaurant business first as dishwasher and busboy and later as a line cook before graduating from culinary school and later becoming Backstreet’s executive chef. He and Vaught married, and together, they have created an award-winning Houston restaurant family that also includes Hugo’s and Caracol.

Chef joins us in this episode of Let The Music Play Podcast as we discuss his journey to where he is today, how he cultivates his creativity, and his simplistic wisdom on life, relationships, and great food.

You can stream this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast at AshtonGustafson.com, iTunes, and Stitcher.

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The Chef Sessions No. 4 with Adana’s Shota Nakajima – Seattle, WA

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Chef Shota Nakajima began his culinary journey at the age of sixteen, working for a well-acclaimed sushi restaurant in his hometown of Seattle, WA. At the age of eighteen, Nakajima moved to Osaka, Japan to learn about the art of Japanese cuisine. In Japan, Nakajima had the opportunity to work for Michelin Star rated Chef Yasuhiko Sakamoto. As one would expect, this experience changed Chef Shota’s perspective on cooking.

Since returning to Seattle, it has been Nakajima’s dream to convey Chef Sakamoto’s approach to hospitality and Japanese cuisine in the United States.

Learn more about Chef Shota and Adana below.

You stream this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast in iTunes and Stitcher.

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The Chef Sessions No. 4 with Greg Wade | Publican Bread Co.

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America’s in the midst of a bread renaissance – just ask Publican Quality Bread’s Head Baker, Greg Wade. Growing up outside Milwaukee, Greg was raised baking with his mother and grandmother, but it wasn’t until years later that he discovered his passion for whole grains, long fermentation and all the other things he speaks effortlessly about under the humble guise of “nerding out.”

After enrolling in The Illinois Institute of Art’s Culinary Program, Greg began to notice a void in the Chicago dining scene – excellent restaurants had the desire to serve quality breads made from hydrated doughs and whole grains, but they were hard-pressed to find the space and expertise necessary to bake in their already-bustling kitchens. From that epiphany, Greg found his first home as a baker at Wicker Park’s Taxim, where he specialized in breads and pastries. As his knowledge continued to grow, Greg joined the opening team at Girl & the Goat in 2010. Wade excelled under Chef Stephanie Izard’s tutelage, and in 2013, he moved to Little Goat to oversee bread baking at Girl & the Goat, Little Goat and Little Goat French Market.

Now at the helm of Publican Quality Bread, Greg works hand in hand with Chefs de Cuisine, farmers and retail owners to develop breads to fit restaurant menus and storefronts within and outside the One Off family. Since joining our team in 2014, Greg has grown Publican Quality Bread from a seedling operation within the kitchen of sister restaurant Publican Quality Meats, to a full-fledged wholesale wing. In 2017, Greg’s passion and skills were recognized with a James Beard finalist nomination for Outstanding Baker, alongside people he’s admired greatly throughout the course of his career.

As Publican Quality Bread’s Head Baker, Greg oversees the bread program for all of One Off Hospitality Group, with a focus on whole grains and fermentation. Apart from his day-to-day leadership, Greg is an active member of the local, regional and national farming communities – every July, you can find him leading a two-day Bread Camp along with Marty and Will Travis at Spence Farm in Fairbury, IL. Online, you can witness his technique and commitment to ethical, quality ingredients in the newly released documentary, Sustainable.

You can listen to this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast at Sticher or iTunes.

Show Notes

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The Chef Sessions No. 3 with Chef Dean Fearing

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Creator of Fearing’s Restaurant and author of The Texas Food Bible, Chef Dean Fearing is known as a “Father of Southwestern Cuisine” and has spent his life cooking for people who love good food.

The son of a Kentucky innkeeper, Dean grew up with grandmothers who knew all about food and who appreciated the finer details of Southern cooking and barbecue. He still uses and treasures their recipes, and they remain one of the most important inspirations of his culinary life. In fact, some of them receive their own unique spin in The Texas Food Bible – which Dean published in 2014.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and following 20-plus years at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dean opened his own Fearing’s Restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas in 2007. Since then, he and his popular menu favorites have been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Food and Wine, Southern Living, Forbes, Fox News, Bon Appétit, Garden & Gun, Robb Report, The Food Network, Guitar Aficionado and more. He was recently recognized as a “Pioneer of American Cuisine” by The Culinary Institute of America, and was also presented with the Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance by Food Arts.

Dean is a restaurateur who likes to spend as much time as possible at his restaurant. Most days, he can be spotted in Fearing’s wearing a signature crisp white chef’s coat with colorful boot embroidery, blue jeans and brightly-hued, custom-tooled Lucchese cowboy boots. When not in the kitchen, he is often found strumming his vintage Fender Telecaster guitar, one of a collection of several dozen guitars and amps, playing songs from the album created by his all-chef alternative country group, The Barbwires, or by his Dallas-based Lost Coyote Band. He is also known to spend his spare time searching the countryside for Texas culinary inspiration. The state’s rich variety of peppers, dried chilies, jicama, cilantro, tomatillos, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, Gulf seafood and Hill Country wild game play a major role in Dean’s ever-changing cuisine.

You can stream or download this episode and all other episodes of Let The Music Play Podcast in iTunes or at AshtonGustafson.com.

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Listening…

…takes time.

…seeks to be connected over being correct.

…requires empathy.

…comes from a place of generosity.

…and starts with a desire to understand.

What if we started comparing, connecting, and commingling our questions in lieu of staging battles with our answers?

I imagine the music cue up as our questions started to dance.

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