Southern Smoke Wrapup

Celebrity chefs go whole hog with smoked brisket and snapper, too, at barbecue street party

Celebrity chefs go whole hog at star-studded barbecue street party

Whitney Mercilus and Chris Shepherd at Southern Smoke
Whitney Mercilus and Chris Shepherd. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Southern Smoke Rodney Scott
Rodney Scott mops his whole hog. Photo by Eric Sandler
Bun B performs at Southern Smoke
Bun B performs for the crowd. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Southern Smoke Aaron Franklin
Aaron Franklin slices brisket. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke Sean Brock snapper
The day's best dish was Sean Brock's snapper on the half-shell. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke Jonathan Jones Chris Shepherd
Chris Shepherd with El Big Bad chef Jonathan Jones. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke Justin Yu Oxheart
Oxheart's Justin Yu prepares his smoked sticky rice tamales. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke Ryan Pera bratwurst
Ryan Pera's smoked tongue/cheek dog with chili, chow chow and cheddar. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke Antonio Gianola Matthew Pridgen
Antonio Gianola with Underbelly sommelier Matthew Pridgen. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke all chefs
Matthew Pridgen, Justin Yu, Sean Brock, Ryan Pera, Terrence Gallivan, Kevin Floyd, Aaron Franklin, Rodney Scott, Antonio Gianola and Chris Shepherd. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchLightGroup.com
Southern Smoke Aaron Franklin barbecue trailers
Aaron Franklin brought two trailers to feed the crowd. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke Seth Siegel-Gardner Pass & Provisions
The Pass & Provisions chef Seth Siegel-Gardner served smoked foie gras. Photo by Eric Sandler
Southern Smoke raffle
One lucky person won the raffle for this custom Pitmaker smoker. Photo by Eric Sandler
Whitney Mercilus and Chris Shepherd at Southern Smoke
Southern Smoke Rodney Scott
Bun B performs at Southern Smoke
Southern Smoke Aaron Franklin
Southern Smoke Sean Brock snapper
Southern Smoke Jonathan Jones Chris Shepherd
Southern Smoke Justin Yu Oxheart
Southern Smoke Ryan Pera bratwurst
Southern Smoke Antonio Gianola Matthew Pridgen
Southern Smoke all chefs
Southern Smoke Aaron Franklin barbecue trailers
Southern Smoke Seth Siegel-Gardner Pass & Provisions
Southern Smoke raffle

Underbelly chef/owner Chris Shepherd had a pretty good Sunday. His beloved Houston Astros defeated the Kansas City Royals in the playoffs and the hated Dallas Cowboys suffered a humiliating 30-6 defeat at home to the New England Patriots. Perhaps most importantly, Shepherd, three visiting celebrity chefs and some of Houston's brightest culinary minds raised almost $184,000 for the National MS Society at the inaugural Southern Smoke charity barbecue event.

James Beard Awards winners like Aaron Franklin of Austin's Franklin Barbecue and Sean Brock of Husk Restaurant (Nashville and Charleston) and McCrady's (Charleston) don't participate in many festivals, but they couldn't say no to Shepherd when he asked for their assistance, along with celebrated South Carolina pitmaster Rodney Scott, to make Southern Smoke a reality.

In addition to the illustrious trio of out-of-towners, a group of Houston chefs — Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan from The Pass & Provisions, Oxheart's Justin Yu and Ryan Pera of Coltivare and Revival Market — joined Shepherd for some elevated riffs on barbecue as part of the debut of the HOUBBQ Collective. The combination of out of star power and high profile Houston chefs set Southern Smoke apart from the annual Houston Barbecue Festival, which focuses on mostly local barbecue talent.

"You know we’re to the point where we could do a festival everyday if we said yes to everything," Brock told CultureMap. "I think at the end of the day one of the great things about being a chef is helping friends when they ask for help, and also to be able to ask for help when you need help. We can do all that through food, and that’s what’s so cool, you know? We’re just cooks, but we’re able to help so many people and we’re very fortunate."

Franklin conceded that "I don't do any festivals," but made an exception for Southern Smoke.

"From time to time, a homie calls (and says), ‘Hey, I want to do this thing. I want to raise money for this. I want to invite this buddy and this buddy. Do you want to hang out?’ 'Absolutely, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.' That’s pretty much all it takes. A homie calling up and saying, ‘do you want to hang out?’ 'Yup, I’ll be there. What day, what time, how many people?'"

Greatest challenge

Scott had perhaps the day's greatest challenge — serving his signature whole hog to Texans who revere beef brisket. "I think we’ll make it," he said with a laugh. "I’ve heard there wasn’t a lot of pork in Texas, but hopefully we’ll start converting them today."

The visiting chefs received help from a high-profile group of culinary assistants including Main Kitchen executive chef Erin Smith, El Big Bad executive chef Jonathan Jones and Prohibition culinary director Ben McPherson. Southern Goods sous chef Patrick Feges furthered the interest in whole hog he demonstrated at the Houston Barbecue Festival by assisting Scott.

"He pays close attention," Scott said of Feges, who won the CultureMap Tastemakers Rising Star Chef of the Year award in May. "He’s learning, and he’s putting in everything he needs to know. He helps both physically and mentally."

In addition to whole hog and a constant line for Franklin's signature brisket, attendees feasted on Brock's snapper on the half shell with ndjua butter, smoked beef shoulder from Underbelly, smoked foie gras mousee and duck from The Pass & Provisions, smoked sticky rice tamales from Yu and smoked tongue and cheek hot dog with chili, chow chow and cheddar from Pera. 

For Siegel-Gardner, participating in Southern Smoke is an extension of the way he and Gallivan have been using more smoke at their restaurant. "We’ve tried to smoke just about everything possible. Smoked brats we’ve been doing come out really nice. Smoked short ribs that we’ve been doing with a pepita sauce. We do a lot of smoked vegetables for both The Pass and Provisions," he said.

Those who missed it shouldn't feel too left out. After presenting the MS Society with a check on behalf of sommelier Antonio Gianola, whose MS diagnosis prompted the event, Shepherd vowed to make Southern Smoke an annual festival. We can't wait.