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When Southern Smoke Returns This Fall, It Will Have Donated More Than $1 Million to Charity

A disaster relief fund is one of two beneficiaries

Chef Ryan Pera cooks paella as part of the HOUBBQ Collective at Southern Smoke 2017
© Michelle Watson/CatchLight Group

Now in its fourth year, Southern Smoke is returning this fall to raise money for its emergency assistance fund created after Hurricane Harvey — and for multiple sclerosis, which the event was originally geared toward.

Chef Chris Shepherd of UB Preserv and the One Fifth concepts launched Southern Smoke in 2015 as a one-day festival to raise money for MS after learning that his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with the disorder. According to a press release, Southern Smoke has raised $454,000 for the MS Society since its inception, “making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.”

Yet, after Hurricane Harvey ravaged Houston last year, the local restaurateur decided to shift focus to raising funds for restaurant industry folks who were affected by the storm. The foundation donated $501,000 to 139 people. That’s nearly a million dollars donated between the two causes.

This year, the festival will be raising money for the year-round emergency assistance fund (which isn’t limited to natural disaster relief), and for MS, with a goal of donating $300,000 in honor of Antonio Gianola — whatever is raised above that will funnel into the emergency fund. Nine visiting chefs will descend on Houston for the one-day event from places like Chicago, New York, and New Orleans. They’ll be joining Shepherd and the HOUBBQ collective, which includes names like Justin Yu of Theodore Rex, Hugo Ortega of Hugo’s and Xochi, and Ryan Pera of Agricole Hospitality to dream up some of the best barbecue dishes to grace H-Town.

Tickets for the September 30 event range in price from $200 general admission to a handful of VIP tickets for $1,000 that include a tour with the chefs on the Friday evening before the festival. Those who can’t make the event can also donate to the emergency fund via its website.