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.
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.
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.
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.
Tyson Cole co-founded Uchi in 2003 as the restaurant’s Executive Chef. Before Uchi, he was a passionate student of the Japanese sushi tradition, training for more than 10 years in a variety of roles from dishwasher to head sushi chef in Tokyo, New York, and Austin, under two different sushi masters. Formative years were spent at Musashino, one of Austin’s top sushi restaurants, where he completed an intensive traditional apprenticeship under owner Takehiko Fuse. The two spent time in Japan, where Tyson experienced the food and gained technical skill. Fuse challenged him to learn the Japanese language, which helped Tyson learn more about the cuisine. He later trained at Bond Street, one of the busiest sushi restaurants in New York City. After Uchi opened in 2003, Tyson was recognized as one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2005. In 2010, he opened Uchiko and in 2011, he celebrated the release of the Uchi Cookbook. Later that year, Tyson also received a James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest.
I’ve taken numerous friends to Uchi over the years and we are all always overjoyed with surprise and delight.
Below are some of my favorite standard dishes you can find at Uchi!