Nellie Celebrates Great Chefs

What do you say when your Chef invites you to not only discuss product for a James Beard Dinner, but also attend the affair? Well, “Hell yes!”. CELEBRATING great food is what is all about and  customer champion extraordinaire Chris Nelson jumped in with both feet!  Can you say “Cannon ball!”?. takes great pride in being the trusted resource for our customers.  We always strive to be the best partner when our Chefs are looking for proteins, foraged items, and culinary oddities from across the globe. Recently, Chris was honored with the invitation to dine at Cerulean in Indianapolis as guests of Executive Chef Kevin Ashworth of 610 Magnolia. The guests were a who’s who in the culinary world. They were treated to a coursed tasting to celebrate the late James Beard with this Friends of James Beard Benefit dinner. The culinary experience included the talents of Event Hosts Chefs Alan Sternberg (Cerulean) and Pete Schmutte (Cerulean), along with Kevin Ashworth (610 Magnolia), and Ryan Santos (Please).

Chef Ashworth and Chef Lee have been devotees of our Lone Mountain Ranch Wagyu Tongue, and Santa Barbara Uni. During the menu planning, research, and development, Chef Ashworth challenged the food community to put its best food foot forward. Built on trust, mutual respect and a long-term partnership, Nellie embraced the conversation and was honored with the invitation to dine with the James Beard guests.  Everyone was treated to  a transcendental bombardment of small plates portraying impeccable culinary mastery.

Part of award-winning Chef Edward Lee’s empire, 610 Magnolia embraces a “modern approach to a Southern table”. Through a robust exchange of historic, progressive, diverse and complex ideas, Chef Ashworth CELEBRATES Southern ideology  while pushing the culinary boundaries. With acclaim from some of the nation’s leading food-centric, lifestyle, and trend-setting publications, it was a matter of time until he unrolled his knives in the kitchen of legacies, A James Beard Dinner. is privileged to be a part of the processes involved in making 610 Magnolia a spectacular dining experience and humbled by the opportunity to serve Chef Ashworth and his team. It was a great honor to be invited to savor the experience firsthand, and to revel in the talents of these incredible chefs. Thank you!

Thank You is enamored to have been a part of your 2015, and we are excited to see what we can do for you in the New Year. Here’s a small look at some of our favorite chefs displaying our product.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” John F. Kennedy

The Team at
Josh Adams
Josh Bogen
Mike Casagrande
Lee Dellinger
Jon Flower
Karen Harmon
Ben Hollinger
Chad Hollingsworth
Patrick Lowder
Kari MacMurray
Chris Nelson
Mike Roberts
Rodney Roden

Chef Hugo Ortega

Chef Hugo OrtegaChef Hugo Ortega Dish

Executive Chef/Co-Owner, Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe

HOUSTON . . . Hugo Ortega, executive chef/co-owner of Hugo’s and Backstreet Cafe and a three-time finalist for James Beard Foundation Awards (2012, 2013 & 2014), was born in Mexico City, the oldest of a family of eight children. At 15, he began working at one of several Procter & Gamble factories in Mexico to help support his family.  “In Mexico, we have a saying, ‘If you’re born poor, you’ll die poor,’” says the eldest Ortega. “I knew I wanted more from my life.”

In 1984, Ortega immigrated to Houston with a cousin and a friend. He had no contacts or job leads, but was determined to make a life for himself in America.  “My family has always had a strong work ethic,” he says. “And I strongly believe that if you work hard, people will respect you.”

Slowly, step-by-step, Ortega began to set down roots in the bustling oil capitol. He shared an apartment with several friends, and followed up on leads for jobs in nearby restaurants. He was happy to find his first job, as a dishwasher, at a popular bar and nightclub. While the pay was meager, Ortega grabbed at the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the restaurant business and find contacts to help him improve his English.

Later, he moved on to a downtown Houston restaurant as busboy during the day and, at night, he cleaned the floors in office buildings to supplement his income. “I was fortunate to have two steady-paying jobs,” recalls Ortega. When his friends in Houston planned to move to California, he opted to stay in Houston. With an unexpected turn of bad luck, Ortega found himself without work.

“It was a very bad time for me,” Ortega remembers. “Most of my friends had moved away, I was out of work and afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent.” A friend took Hugo to Backstreet Cafe, where he found employment as a dishwasher/busboy.  It was at Backstreet Cafe tat, according to the chef, “the great opportunity of my life came.”

Tracy Vaught, owner of Backstreet Cafe and Prego, was impressed with Ortega’s positive attitude and willingness to learn.  She thought he showed a great deal of promise and offered him a position on the line in the kitchen.  He worked diligently, familiarizing himself with every aspect of the kitchen and was soon promoted to the kitchen at Prego, where he worked side-by-side with Executive Chef John Watt.  Impressed by his hard work and dedication, Vaught offered to enroll Ortega in the Culinary Arts program at Houston Community College.  He jumped in with both feet.

Executive Chef Jason Liao – Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine

Chef Jason Liao - Preview Modern Seafood

Chef Jason Liao – Preview Modern Seafood

Hiramasa Presentation - Preview Modern Seafood

Hiramasa Presentation – Preview Modern Seafood

“As a restaurant that specializes in serving top of the line global seafood, one of the most essential relationships that must be established is the one between the chef and purveyor. has gone above and beyond to meet my needs at my restaurant and I highly recommend them to anybody seeking high caliber seafood products in the industry. My vision for Preview Modern Seafood is to bring innovative seafood, fresh global cuisine, and a new approach to fine dining to the Houston suburbs. I want to be the top seafood destination for the greater Houston area!” – Chef Jason Liao

Executive Chef Jason Liao

Jason began his career in the restaurant industry at the age of eighteen starting off as a waiter at Sushi Niichi while he was attending the University of Texas. Originally studying to be an engineer, a series of life circumstances led him to enter the restaurant field full time at the age of twenty one when he began his sushi training as a apprentice at Umi Sushi Bar and Grill in Austin, TX.

A year later, Jason left Umi and joined his original restaurant mentor David Hsieh in his newly opened Nanami Sushi Bar and Grill in South Austin. Recognizing Jason’s growing creativity behind the line and rapport with sushi bar customers, David stepped back and allowed Jason to hone his skills with little to no restriction. Jason continued to advance, quickly passing up the rest of the sushi line in both skill and knowledge of the cuisine. A year later, David handed over the reins and promoted Jason to head chef of the sushi line.

With his new position, Jason began to truly work towards his ambitions of becoming a renowned chef and brought local attention to the family owned South Austin restaurant. He began to take influence from other schools of cuisine as well as chefs and began creating his own brand of “modern fusion.” He devised tasting menus based on his creations and garnered a following among Nanami’s regulars.

He first hit the media on the cover page of Austin 360 in the featured article One Man’s Journey Into Sushi, a anecdotal account of reporter Jason Whaley’s experience with Jason. Soon, other media began to take notice. So far he has been featured in notable blogs The Alcoholian, ATX Food News and others as well as becoming a nominee for Eater Austin’s Hottest Chef’s in 2012. In 2013, he was featured along with other Nanami’s staff in Community Impact magazine shortly before he parted ways to return to his hometown Houston to begin a new chapter in his life. His first restaurant, “Preview”, is named such because Jason feels that it is his first true debut in the restaurant scene, and that there is “more to come”.

Check out Preview (Official Site) on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Please give them a like and a follow – Their plate presentations are awe-inspiring works of art!

(The Bio of Chef Liao was provided by Preview Modern Seafood Cuisine.)

Yellowtail Snapper at Delmonico Grill

Seared Yellowtail Snapper with Butternut Squash Pudding, Broccolini, Tomato Confit, Paprika Oil

Seared Yellowtail Snapper with Butternut Squash Pudding, Broccolini, Tomato Confit, Paprika Oil

Big Up’s to Chef Aleaha at Delmonico Grill in South Dakota.

LOVE the simple prep, LOVE the passion, & LOVE the quality recognition for our partner in Florida. Great philosophy of buying a perfect fish, getting the fluff out of the way, letting the Snapper shine, and letting the sea speak to her guests!