Southern Smoke 2018

Southern Smoke Festival serves up culinary star power, fab fare, and goodwill

Southern Smoke Fest serves up culinary star power, fab fare, goodwill

Southern Smoke 2018 Edouardo Jordan Chris Shepherd
Edouardo Jordan and Chris Shepherd. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Sam Jones
Sam Jones with his Carolina-style whole hog. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Chris Bianco
Chris Bianco prepares his Texas Wiseguy pizza. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Aaron Franklin
Aaron Franklin slicing brisket. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Hugo Ortega Ruben Ortega
Hugo and Ruben Ortega. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Chris Bianco pizza
Chris Bianco's Texas Wiseguy pizza hot out of the oven.  Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Daniela Soto Innes
Daniela Soto-Innes with her pulpo skewers. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Agricole Hospitality trompo Marcelo Garcia
Marcelo Garcia slicing meat from the Agricole Hospitality trompo. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Quy Hoang Billy Durney Leonard Botello
Quy Hoang (Blood Bros. BBQ), Leonard Botello IV (Truth Barbecue), and Billy Durney (Hometown Bar-B-Que) with two Houston police officers. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Patrick Feges Justin Yu
Patrick Feges and Justin Yu. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Ryan Pera Seth Siegel-Gardner
Ryan Pera (Agircole Hospitality) and Seth Siegel Gardner (The Pass & Provisions). Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Ryan Prewitt
New Orleans chef Ryan Prewitt (Peche). Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Billy Durney
Billy Durney with his smoked ribeye taco. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Jason Vincent
Chicago chef Jason Vincent (Giant). Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 check presentation
Almost $425,000 raised for three worthy causes. Photo by Catchlight Photography
Southern Smoke 2018 Edouardo Jordan Chris Shepherd
Southern Smoke 2018 Sam Jones
Southern Smoke 2018 Chris Bianco
Southern Smoke 2018 Aaron Franklin
Hugo Ortega Ruben Ortega
Southern Smoke 2018 Chris Bianco pizza
Southern Smoke 2018 Daniela Soto Innes
Southern Smoke 2018 Agricole Hospitality trompo Marcelo Garcia
Southern Smoke 2018 Quy Hoang Billy Durney Leonard Botello
Southern Smoke 2018 Patrick Feges Justin Yu
Southern Smoke 2018 Ryan Pera Seth Siegel-Gardner
Southern Smoke 2018 Ryan Prewitt
Southern Smoke 2018 Billy Durney
Southern Smoke 2018 Jason Vincent
Southern Smoke 2018 check presentation

If brevity is the soul of wit, than Chris Shepherd is Houston’s Jon Stewart.

As he took the stage to present the donation checks at the fourth annual Southern Smoke Festival, the James Beard Award winner saluted the crowd for another impressive donation total.

“You guys fucking rocked it! $425,000,” Shepherd exclaimed.

Three worthy causes will benefit from the money. The National MS Society will receive $200,000, and Hurricane Florence relief efforts will receive $10,000. The remaining almost $215,000 will go to the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund, a charity formed after Hurricane Harvey that provides financial assistance to people in the restaurant industry. The September 30 total means the event has raised close to $1.5 million dollars in four years.

Intermittent rain showers couldn’t dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm — or the line for Franklin Barbecue. As always, many of the 1,500-plus attendees waited an hour or more for bites of brisket, sausage, and pimento cheese from the world-renowned Austin barbecue joint.

But why stand in line for brisket when so many other chefs from across the country delivered such tempting bites? Highlights included Brooklyn pitmaster Billy Durney’s smoked ribeye tacos, Sam Jones’ Carolina-style whole hog sandwiches with crispy pork skin, Chicago chef Jason Vincent’s swordfish with smoked chickpeas, and Seattle chef Edouardo Jordan’s jerk chicken with peas and rice.

James Beard Award-winning pizzaiolo Chris Bianco served up a Texas version of his signature Wise Guy pizza that used Texas-milled flour from Barton Springs Mill and bacon sausage made by Shepherd. Daniela Soto-Innes, the Beard Award-winning chef de cuisine of acclaimed New York Mexican restaurants Cosme and Atla who previously worked for Shepherd at Underbelly, impressed with her grilled octopus skewer with pineapple salsa.

Houston chefs delivered plenty of culinary delights, too. Hugo Ortega (Hugo’s, etc.) served huitlacoche tamales, and Kata Robata chef Manabu Horiuchi put his signature spin on Japanese-style skipjack tacos. Justin Yu (Theodore Rex) collaborated with Feges BBQ owners Patrick Feges and Erin Smith on smoked beef cheeks with noodle salad. Agricole Hospitality (Coltivare, Revival Market, etc.) took the unofficial award for the day’s most Instagrammable dish with a Steampunk-looking trompo spit that rotated eight spits of pork and chicken for tacos.

Attendees could pair that food with any number of beverage options, including cocktails from sponsor Knob Creek, beer from Sierra Nevada, and a wide range of wines. Silent auction items that fetched top dollar included a private dinner for six prepared by Shepherd and New Orleans chef Ryan Prewitt ($33,500), a photo shoot dinner for Shepherd’s upcoming cookbook ($10,500), a trip for four to Burgundy, France with sommelier Antonio Gianola ($10,000),  a private dinner for 12 prepared by celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern ($6,000), and the velvet painting of Tom Selleck that hung in One Fifth Romance Languages ($2,125).

Musical performances by the Bayou City Brass Band, Mariachis Los Gallitos, and Neon Rainbow kept the crowd entertained. VIP attendees could grab a seat in the Lexus lounge or head inside to Hay Merchant.

The crowd event got a sneak peek at the new interior for Georgia James, the steakhouse Shepherd will open next month. New brick, wood, and lights constitute a total change from the space's previous iteration as Underbelly, but it's a relocated bar that looks to be the biggest change. 

Taken together, this year’s combination of culinary star power, drinks, and entertainment establishes this year’s Southern Smoke as the best one yet. Shepherd and his crew will have to work hard to top it in year five. We can’t wait to see what they come up with.

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