Mark your calendars.
James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd and his nonprofit Southern Smoke Foundation are gearing up for the seventh annual year of the Southern Smoke Festival this October, and as expected, the two-day affair will overtake Downtown with a culinary star-studded lineup featuring more than 60 chefs and restaurateurs, and Houston makes a great showing.
The festival will feature more than 20 Houston chefs, including:
- Ope Amoso, ChòpnBlọk
- Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn and Navy Blue
- Leonard Botello IV, Truth BBQ
- Dawn Burrell, Top Chef: Portland finalist and chef of Late August
- Emmanuel Chavez, 2023 James Beard finalist and chef behind Tatemó
- David Cordua, The Lymbar
- Abbas Dhanani, Burger Bodega
- Patrick Feges and Erin Smith, Feges BBQ
- Terrance Galivan, Elro Pizza & Crudo
- Evelyn Garcia, Top Chef: Houston finalist and chef of Jūn
- Greg Gatlin, Gatlin’s BBQ, and Gatlin’s Fins & Feathers
- Levi Goode, Goode Co.
- Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi, Katami
- Graham Laborde and Benjy Mason, Winnie’s
- Ryan LaChaine, Riel
- Rebecca Masson, Fluff Bake Bar
- Kate McLean, Tony’s
- Trong Ngyuen, Crawfish & Noodles
- Benchawan Jabthong Painter, 2023 James Beard finalist and chef behind Street to Kitchen
- Ryan Pera, Coltivare
- Felipe Ricco, Goodnight Hospitality
- Jason Ryczek, Little’s Oyster Bar
- Martin Stayer, Nobie’s
- Michelle Wallace, b’Tween Sandwich Co.
- Chris Williams, Lucille’s
- Robin Wong, Terry Wong, Quy Hoang, and Arash Kharat, Blood Bros. BBQ
Though previous festivals were three-day-long affairs, this year’s event will focus on two culinary events, with proceeds benefitting the foundation’s mission of providing emergency relief funding and mental health services to food and beverage workers throughout the country.
The festival kicks off on Friday, October 13 with the return of its signature Respect the Rosé event. Hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel Houston, this swanky, 007/Monte Carlo-themed, invites diners out to try an assortment of rosés and wines hand-selected by members of the foundation along with a multi-course dinner prepared by chefs around the country. Featured chefs include Rebecca Masson of Houston’s Fluff Bake Bar; Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer of Memphis’ Andrew Michael; plus James Beard Award-winners Sarah Grueneberg of Chicago’s Monteverde; New Orlean’s Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon and Ryan Prewitt of Peche; and Jason Stanhope of Charleston’s Fig. Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, June 7, and will be priced at $500 for individual tickets, $5,000 for a table of 10, and $7,500 for a table of 10 with special wines.
The festival’s main event, appropriately titled the Throwdown, will overtake Houston’s Discovery Green on Saturday, October 14, showcasing the talents of more than 40 culinary stars from around the country. Festival newcomers Reem Assil of Reem’s California in Oakland, Angel Barreto of Washington D.C.’s Anju; New Orleans chefs Ana Castro and Nina Compton; Tracy Malechek-Ezekiel of Birdie’s in Austin; and Caroline Schiff of New York’s Gagne & Tollner. Returning chefs include Cheetie Kumra of Raliegh’s Ajja and Claudette Zepeda of San Diego, plus James Beard Award winners Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix Arizona; Mason Hereford of New Orlean’s Turkey & The Wolf; Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina; and Austin’s own Aaron Franklin.
Houston will represent well in the Throwdown, with chefs including Aaron Bludorn of Navy Blue, Top Chef finalists Dawn Burrell of Late August and Evelyn Garcia of Jūn; Benchawan Painter of Street to Kitchen, Chris Williams of Lucille’s; Bun B of TrillBurgers; and many more.
Shepherd founded the Southern Smoke Foundation in 2015 to assist members of the food and beverage industry in crisis. To date, the organization has raised more than $10.5 million in grants to assist food and beverage workers in need and has provided no-cost mental health counseling to people in the industry and their children around the country, including California, Louisiana, Illinois, New York, and Texas.
Southern Smoke Foundation’s Respect the Rosé event will be held from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday, October 13, 2023. Tickets start at $500 for individual tickets and cost between $5,000 and $7,500 for tables. Four Seasons Hotel Houston, 1300 Lamar Street, 77010. For more information, visit the Southern Smoke website.
The festival’s main event, the Throwdown, will be hosted from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, October 14, 2023, at Discovery Green. Tickets will be $175 for general admission and $500 for VIP, which includes early admission starting at 3 p.m. and access to its VIP area with special wines and a chance to enter giveaways. Discovery Green, 1500 McKinney Street, Houston, 77010.