Southern Smoke is a nonprofit organization designed to provide support and assistance for people in the Houston food and beverage community and their suppliers. James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd launched the charity in 2015 after learning that his friend and former sommelier, Antonio Gianola, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Southern Smoke has raised $454,000 for the MS Society, making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.
Last year, Southern Smoke shifted its focus to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey, and donated $501,000 to 139 people in need. Since then, the foundation has expanded to include a year-round emergency relief fund for people in the food and beverage industry, inspired by the success of last year's Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. It also continues to support the National MS Foundation with a goal of donating $300,000 in 2018.
The best way for people to get involved is to attend the annual Southern Smoke Festival. Shepherd recruits top culinary talent from across the country to prepare food for the event. The headliner is always Aaron Franklin of Austin's famed Franklin Barbecue, but the roster constitutes a who's who of barbecue, Southern food, and more.
The Southern Smoke Festival attracts top culinary talent from around the country for a one-day bash of eating and drinking.