winter storm relief

Chris Shepherd, Shake Shack, and generous Houstonian team up to help local restaurant workers

Chris Shepherd and Shake Shack team up to help restaurant workers

Aaron Bludorn Chris Shepherd Southern Smoke
Aaron Bludorn is hosting collaboration dinners to benefit Southern Smoke. Photo by Michael Anthony
Shake Shack Southern Smoke chicken sandwich
The Southern Smoke chicken sandwich will be available on March 4. Courtesy of Shake Shack
Aaron Bludorn Chris Shepherd Southern Smoke
Shake Shack Southern Smoke chicken sandwich

Houston's Southern Smoke Foundation has kicked off a new round of fundraising in response to the devastation of Winter Storm Uri. These efforts include intriguing new chef dinners, a collaboration with global burger juggernaut Shake Shack, and a massive donation from a concerned Houstonian.

Over the weekend, the local nonprofit announced the creation of its Texas winter storm relief fund that will benefit restaurant workers statewide. Hospitality workers in need of emergency cash assistance — for example, to repair a home damaged by burst pipes — may apply via the organization's website. Since the start of the pandemic, Southern Smoke has issued over $5 million in grants nationwide.

The organization's winter storm relief efforts got a boost via a $400,000 contribution from energy trader Adam Sinn, who's donating the windfall profits he realized from several micro power plants he owns. In a release, Sinn explains that he thinks ERCOT should have ended its emergency pricing order at noon on February 18 instead of 9 am on February 19; therefore, he's donating the money he earned during that time period to Southern Smoke.

"I encourage anyone who profited excessively to find a charity that helps Texans in need and write that check," Sinn, who is also an investor in Feges BBQ, stated. "I think it’s the right thing to do, and I hope other generation companies follow my lead.” 

Houstonians of more modest means may support the organization by buying a chicken sandwich. Southern Smoke co-founder chef Chris Shepherd worked with Shake Shack to create the "Southern Smoke Chicken" sandwich as part of its "Now Serving" series that supports local organizations with special menu items. Available at both the Montrose and Rice Village locations only on Thursday, March 4, the sandwich features a fried chicken breast topped with spicy bacon jam (a nod to Shepherd's signature bacon sausage), pickled jalapeño mustard, cherry peppers, and shredded lettuce on a Martin's potato bun.

“It’s been wonderful partnering with the Shake Shack team to get creative for a good cause and I’m stoked this collaboration will give back to Southern Smoke,” Shepherd said in a statement. “We worked off the classic, delicious Shake Shack chicken sandwich and added some elements that speak to the local cuisine and flavors here in Texas. We can’t wait for Houston to try it out.”

Shake Shack will donate proceeds from the $7.39 sandwich to Southern Smoke. In addition, Shack Shack will donate 25-percent of proceeds from sales on March 1 and 2 at both stores to the organization.

Chef Aaron Bludorn is also raising money for the organization via his recently announced collaboration dinner series at his Montrose restaurant Bludorn. The meal first, scheduled for March 11, will see him reunite with chefs Matthew Peters and Travis Swikard, two chefs whose plans to open new restaurants have been disrupted by the pandemic. Peters, an alum of New York's three-star Michelin Per Se and the first American to win the prestigious Bocuse d’Or culinary competition, will open a still-unannounced fine dining restaurant in Austin with his wife, former French Laundry pastry chef Lorin Peters. Swikard, who, like Bludorn, worked for legendary French chef Daniel Boulud in New York City, plans to open a restaurant in San Diego.

The four-course, $105 meal will feature canapés and entrees from all three chefs, as well as dessert by Bludorn pastry chef Alejandra Salas and a takeway from Lorin Peters. Dishes include Lebanese labneh dumplings with artichokes from Swikard; crawfish and quail from Bludorn; and grilled pork secreto from Peters. Beverages, tax, and gratuity are additional. Reservations are available via the restaurant's website.