Houston Charity Guide
Southern Smoke 2019

Chris Shepherd's smoke-filled fundraiser fires up a record-breaking day

Chris Shepherd's smoke-filled fundraiser fires up record-breaking day

Southern Smoke 2019 Chris Shepherd check presentation
The night raised over $573,000 for charity. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Chris Cosentino Rosalie Italian Soul
Chris Cosentino slicing his whole hog porchetta. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Charley Crockett band
The Charley Crockett band. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Aaron Franklin
Aaron Franklin slicing brisket. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Hugo Ruben Ortega
Hugo and Ruben Ortega. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Stephanie Maxwell Cheryl Gibbs
Stephanie Maxwell and Cheryl Gibbs. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Justin Yu Theodore Rex
Justin Yu plating his dish. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Aaron Bludorn Matt Harris
Aaron Bludorn and Matt "That Guy Houston" Harris. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Chris Bianco
Chris Bianco with his wood-fired pizza oven. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Martin Sara Stayer Nobie's Toasted Coconut
Martin and Sara Stayer. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Jonathan Beitler Linda Salinas
Jonathan Beitler and Linda Salinas. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Kata Robata Manabu Horiuchi
Kata Robata chef Hori-san, right, with his team. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Matty Matheson smoked beef congee
Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Nancy's Hustle Jason Vaughn Sean Jensen Julia Doran
Team Nancy's Hustle: Sean Jensen, Julia Doran, and Jason Vaughn. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2018 Jonny Rhodes Indigo
Indigo chef Jonny Rhodes, right, prepared collar greens with turnips. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Ashley Christensen
Ashley Christensen. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Frank Krockenberger Frank Fernandez Haley Delarosa
Bean Suntory representatives Frank Krockenburger, Frank Fernandez, and Hailey Harris Delarosa. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Yehuda Sichel
Yehuda Sichel of Abe Fisher in Philadelphia. Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Donald Link Ryan Prewitt Stephen Stryjewski
New Orleans power trio: Donald Link, Ryan Prewitt, and Stephen Stryjewski Photo by Emily Jaschke
Southern Smoke 2019 Chris Shepherd check presentation
Southern Smoke 2019 Chris Cosentino Rosalie Italian Soul
Southern Smoke 2019 Charley Crockett band
Southern Smoke 2019 Aaron Franklin
Southern Smoke 2019 Hugo Ruben Ortega
Southern Smoke 2019 Stephanie Maxwell Cheryl Gibbs
Southern Smoke 2019 Justin Yu Theodore Rex
Southern Smoke 2019 Aaron Bludorn Matt Harris
Southern Smoke 2019 Chris Bianco
Southern Smoke 2019 Martin Sara Stayer Nobie's Toasted Coconut
Southern Smoke 2019 Jonathan Beitler Linda Salinas
Southern Smoke 2019 Kata Robata Manabu Horiuchi
Southern Smoke 2018 Matty Matheson smoked beef congee
Southern Smoke 2019 Nancy's Hustle Jason Vaughn Sean Jensen Julia Doran
Southern Smoke 2018 Jonny Rhodes Indigo
Southern Smoke 2019 Ashley Christensen
Southern Smoke 2019 Frank Krockenberger Frank Fernandez Haley Delarosa
Southern Smoke 2019 Yehuda Sichel
Southern Smoke 2019 Donald Link Ryan Prewitt Stephen Stryjewski

“I said the other night I wanted a half a million dollars,” Chris Shepherd told the crowd at Sunday’s Southern Smoke Festival. “So, tonight, $573,394.54. Boom.”

That’s a pretty good accomplishment on “Chris Shepherd Southern Smoke Day,” as declared by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, who visited the festival to present the chef with a plaque to commemorate the occasion.

 

 

It’s a record-breaking amount for the fifth year event, which raises money for the National MS Society and the Southern Smoke Foundation, a charity Shepherd started after Hurricane Harvey to provide emergency financial assistance to people in the restaurant industry. After revealing the fundraising total, the chef helped illustrate the event’s importance by telling a moving story about a man who received $100,000 from the foundation for life-saving treatment at TIRR that helped him recover from a devastating motorcycle accident.

To achieve that staggering amount, Shepherd recruited an all-star cast of chefs from both across the city and across the country to prepare bites to the 1,500-plus attendees. This year’s festival had the largest footprint yet, covering not just the property for Shepherd’s establishments — Hay Merchant, Georgia James, and Blacksmith — but also claiming nearby parking lots for Slick Willie’s and Legacy Community Health (and the streets that connect them).

All in, 25 chefs served food at this year’s Southern Smoke. As always, Aaron Franklin, arguably the world’s most famous pitmaster, attracted the longest line as people waited an hour or more for a brisket and sausage taco.

Picking a favorite from among the other visitors is nearly impossible. Chris Bianco’s bacon sausage and onion pizza, Yehuda Sichel’s pastrami sandwiches, Sam Jones’ Carolina-style whole hog, and Matty Matheson’s smoked beef shank congee all had diners raving — not to mention Sarah Grueneberg’s lamb meatballs, Ashley Christensen’s grilled oysters, and the boudin produced by three of New Orleans’ most-celebrated chefs: Donald Link, Ryan Prewitt, and Stephen Stryjewski.

Local chefs held their own, too. Kata Robata chef Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi had the longest line courtesy of his tuna handroll with uni and caviar. Justin Yu served “Teddy cakes” topped with whipped butter and caviar. Next to him, Nancy’s Hustle chef Jason Vaughn turned out an array of snacks, including pork belly pastrami, corn dogs made with Nancy cake batter, and smoked whole fish.

Elsewhere, Nobie’s chef Martin Stayer offered up duck fat hash browns, Patrick Feges and Erin Smith  (Feges BBQ) served up Korean-spiced chuck eye with a vegetable pancake, and Trong Nguyen of Crawfish and Noodles fried up fish sauce chicken wings. Both Felipe Riccio (Rosie Cannonball) and Jonny Rhodes (Indigo) made the bold decision of serving vegetables with a grilled bean salad and braised collard greens with pickled turnips, respectively.

Two newcomers to Houston made strong first impressions with creative pork dishes. Aaron Bludorn, the former Cafe Boulud chef who’s planning to open a Houston restaurant in 2020, dished out crispy pig head sliders. Chris Cosentino and Sasha Grumman previewed Rosalie Italian Soul with a whole pig porchetta stuffed with blood sausage.

Attendees could pair their bites with drinks from a number of sponsors, including Rambler sparkling water, Jim Beam bourbon, Sierra Nevada brewery, and Miner wines. Folk Family Revival and headliner Charley Crockett kept the crowd entertained.

The combination of local and national talent makes Southern Smoke one of the city’s premier food events, and it seems to get a little bigger and better every year. We can’t wait for the next one.