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Houston’s Southern Smoke Festival Returns This October With a Star-Studded Lineup [Update]

The three-day event will feature more than 60 chefs from around the country — around half from Houston

Chef Chris Shepherd cheerfully raising his hands in the air in front of a crowded bar.
James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd is bringing back the Southern Smoke Festival, with more than 60 chefs — around half from the Houston area.
Michelle Watson/

James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd and his nonprofit organization, the Southern Smoke Foundation, are bringing back the Southern Smoke Festival this October, featuring a lineup of more than 60 talented chefs and culinary celebrities from around the country — roughly half from the Houston area alone.

The festival will feature chefs like Dawn Burrell of the anticipated restaurant Late August, Erin Smith and Patrick Feges of Feges BBQ, Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi of Kata Robata, Greg Gatlin of Gatlin’s BBQ, and many more over three days starting on October 21. The kickoff event — the “H-Town Welcome Wagon” — will be held at the Houston Farmers Market in collaboration with pitmaster Aaron Franklin’s Hot Luck Live Food & Music festival. Hosted by Shepherd and Top Chef judge and food writer Gail Simmons, the welcome event will celebrate Houston’s culinary contributions and the Texas wine scene with some of the city’s favorite chefs and their creations (Tickets are $250 for early entry and $150 general admission).

The second day of the festival, on October 22, will host the ticketed “Southern Smoke on Ice” soiree at the Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, featuring a massive raw bar with tons of cold seafood and shellfish, an interactive tuna breakdown followed by made-to-order hand-rolls and high-end wines (Tickets are limited and on sale for a whopping $1,000).

And on the final day, on October 23, the “East Downtown Throwdown” will take over the EaDo neighborhood with trailers, pits, and plenty of fire to smoke up anything possible (Tickets will run you $225 for general admission or $450 for VIP).

Chefs from around the country, including Franklin, Top Chef judges Tom Colicchio and Brooke Williamson, Top Chef finalist Sarah Grueneberg, and the Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern will work the event, which will offer live music, beer and wine, and a silent auction that will benefit Southern Smoke’s fund. One of the items to be auctioned will benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in honor of Houston sommelier Antonio Gianola, a friend of Shepherd’s who was diagnosed with MS.

Tickets for the event go on sale at noon, Tuesday, August 30 on the Southern Smoke website.

The festival, last held in 2019, raised $573,394 that year for the foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund, which gives financial assistance to those within the food and beverage business, including farmers, winemakers, distillers, and restaurant and bar workers. Shepherd launched the first two smoke events in 2015 and 2016 to support the society before launching Southern Smoke’s Emergency Relief Fund. To date, Southern Smoke has given more than $9 million to people nationwide through the fund.

Dozens of people in “Southern Smoke Foundation” t-shirts pose in front of the stage, some holding large checks.
The Southern Smoke Foundation’s festival in 2019 raised more than $570,000 to financially assist people in the food and beverage business who had experienced emergencies or crises.
© Michelle Watson/CatchLight Gr

The full lineup of Houston chefs includes:

  • John Avila, El Burro & the Bull Restaurant Group
  • Bun B, Trill Burgers
  • Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn
  • Leonard Botello IV, Truth BBQ
  • Dawn Burrell, Late August
  • Stephen Conklin, Shaun King, and Jack Yoss; Hai Hospitality
  • Chris Cosentino, Rosalie Italian Soul
  • Chris Davies, Underbelly Hospitality
  • Patrick Feges and Erin Smith, Feges BBQ
  • Terrence Gallivan, Elro
  • Greg Gatlin, Gatlin’s BBQ
  • Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi, Kata Robata
  • Benchawan Painter, Street to Kitchen
  • Ryan Pera, Agricole Hospitality
  • Greg Peters, Tim Reading; Underbelly Hospitality
  • Jacklyn Pham, Saigon Pagolac
  • Jeff Potts, 93 Til
  • Gabriel Medina, Click Virtual Food Hall
  • Trong Nguyen, Crawfish and Noodles
  • Felipe Riccio, Goodnight Hospitality
  • Easton Sadler, R-C Ranch Butcher Shop
  • Martin Stayer, Nobie’s
  • Joshua Weissman, YouTube
  • Chris Williams, Lucille’s
  • Robin Wong, Blood Bros. BBQ

Other chefs from Austin and beyond:

  • Karen Akunowicz, Fox & the Knife (Boston, MA)
  • Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Jamie Bissonnette, Little Donkey (Boston, MA)
  • Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Canje (Austin, TX)
  • Katie Button, Katie Button Restaurants (Asheville, NC)
  • Ashley Christensen, AC Restaurants (Raleigh, NC)
  • Tom Colicchio, Crafted Hospitality (New York, NY)
  • Billy Durney, Hometown BBQ (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Kevin Fink, Hestia (Austin, TX)
  • Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon (Santa Monica, CA)
  • Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX)
  • Diego Galicia, Mixtli (San Antonio, TX)
  • Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde (Chicago, IL)
  • Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf (New Orleans, LA)
  • Chad Houser, Café Momentum (Dallas, TX)
  • Stephanie Izard, Girl & The Goat (Chicago, IL)
  • Marcus Jacobs, Marjie’s Grill (New Orleans, LA)
  • Sam Jones, Sam Jones BBQ. (Ayden, NC)
  • Brian Jupiter, Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern (Chicago, IL)
  • Pat Martin, Martin’s BBQ Joint (Nashville, TN)
  • Nicole Mills, Peche Seafood Grill (New Orleans, LA)
  • Fermín Núñez, Suerte (Austin, TX)
  • Steven Redzikowski, Oak at Fourteenth (Boulder, CO)
  • Jordan Rubin, Mr. Tuna (Portland, ME)
  • Gail Simmons (New York, NY)
  • Jason Stanhope, FIG (Charleston, SC)
  • Stephen Stryjewski, Link Restaurant Group (New Orleans, LA)
  • Rico Torres, Mixtli (San Antonio, TX)
  • Paola Velez (Washington, DC)
  • Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant (Chicago, IL)
  • Brooke Williamson, Playa Provisions (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Claudette Zepeda, VAGA (San Diego, CA)
  • Andrew Zimmern (Minneapolis, MN)