Chris Shepherd created Southern Smoke to honor his friend and former sommelier, Antonio Gianola, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014. It’s a particular point of pride for Chris that the restaurant industry can have such an impact—using its powers for good and taking care of its own.
On October 22, 2017, Chris, along with the HOUBBQ Collective, will host the third annual Southern Smoke. A dream team of Southern chefs and pitmakers will cook—some of last year’s favorites are returning, as well as some new faces. Chris will turn Underbelly, Hay Merchant and Blacksmith into a massive street party once again, with the goal of raising $300,000 for the MS Society.
- Aaron Franklin: Austin, Texas-based barbecue cook, restaurant owner, educator and writer. Aaron is a self taught bbq expert, who has quickly risen to be one of the most well known pit bosses in the barbecue world. He never cuts corners on choosing quality meats and spending the time it really takes to make the best bbq in the country (even if he is losing sleep). In 2015, Aaron won the coveted James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest.
- Rodney Scott: Rodney Scott was just 11 years old when he cooked his first whole hog, and it wasn’t long before he dedicated his life to the art of barbecue. Since, Scott has traveled all over the world – as far as Australia – to share his passion for whole hog barbecue. Last year, Scott moved to Charleston to start a new chapter and open his own place, Rodney Scott’s Whole Hog BBQ.
- Ashley Christensen: Ashley Christensen is the chef/owner of Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, Death & Taxes and Bridge Club, all located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Ashley’s cooking–hinged on her philosophy of bright, fresh flavors and locally grown, seasonal ingredients–has garnered local and national acclaim. Ashley is involved in a number of charities, including the Frankie Lemmon Foundation, the Southern Foodways Alliance and Share Our Strength. In 2014, Ashley was awarded the James Beard Award for “Best Chef: Southeast.” Her first cookbook, Poole’s: Recipes and Stories from a Modern Diner, is due out in September 2016 from Ten Speed Press.
- Mike Lata: Mike Lata is Chef/Partner of FIG Restaurant in Charleston, SC, which he opened in 2003 with Partner Adam Nemirow. In 2009, Mike took home the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast. In 2015, his protégé Chef Jason Stanhope garnered the same award – a rare achievement for one restaurant to earn this prestigious prize twice. Additionally, FIG has been nominated in 2014, 2015 and 2016 for Outstanding Wine Program by the James Beard Foundation. Now a local institution, FIG is consistently voted by locals as the “Best Restaurant in Charleston” in Charleston City Paper. In December 2012, Lata and Nemirow opened The Ordinary, a classic oyster bar and seafood hall in Charleston’s Upper King district, to much local and national acclaim. The James Beard Foundation nominated The Ordinary as Best New Restaurant in 2013, and GQ, Esquire and Bon Appétit named it in the top 20 best restaurants of the year.
- Jason Stanhope: Kansas native Jason Stanhope fell in love with the kitchen while pursuing a degree at Le Cordon Bleu in San Francisco. During this time, he had the chance to work in Cusco and Machu Picchu, Peru, for Michael Raas, where he seized every opportunity, including one to fill in for the fish cook at Hotel Monasterio. The former Division II college football player moved back to the U.S. to work with James Beard award-winning chef Debbie Gold at Forty Sardines in Kansas City. While on a vacation to Charleston, Stanhope fell for the city and its rich epicurean history, and decided to move East and join the team at Mike Lata’s acclaimed FIG, where he has worked his way through the kitchen, starting as chef-tournant to his current position of executive chef, which earned him the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2015.
- John Besh: John Besh is a chef and native son dedicated to the culinary riches of southern Louisiana. In his sixteen restaurants and bars, entrepreneurial pursuits, and public activities, he aims to preserve ingredients, techniques, and heritage. Besh's cookbooks, My New Orleans and My Family Table, were each recognized with an IACP Award. His third cookbook, Cooking From The Heart, was published in fall 2013 and his latest cookbook, Besh Big Easy, was released on September 29, 2015. He hosts two national public television cooking shows based on the books. The John Besh Foundation works to preserve New Orleans’ culinary heritage via initiatives such as the Chefs Move! scholarship program and microloans for local farmers.
- HOUBBQ Collective: The HOUBBQ Collective, a cooking collaborative of Houston chefs that are not professional pit masters, will be back. The group, which includes Seth Siegel-Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass and Provisions, Ryan Pera of Coltivare, Justin Yu of Better Luck Tomorrow and Public Services Wine and Whisky and Chris Shepherd, made their debut at the inaugural Southern Smoke and have cooked together each year since. As Chef Seth Siegel-Gardner says, "Working events like Southern Smoke collectively—not as individual restaurants—gives us a chance to spend time with our friends, but most importantly, we get to cook together.”
“Houston is an incredibly generous city and helped us almost double our fundraising goal last year,” said Chris, “This year, with this incredible group of talented cooks, the goal is even higher. I can’t think of better people to help me honor Antonio and do what we can to fight this disease that has taken such a toll on our industry.”
Tickets on sale Monday, August 7 at Noon.
$350 VIP, which includes early entry, premium wines and a gift bag including participating chefs’ cookbooks
$200 general admission
Visit SouthernSmoke.org for tickets and additional information.
Southern Smoke would not be possible without our partners. Lexus is on board for the third year as a title partner. We’d also like to thank the JW Marriott Downtown, our exclusive hotel partner; and The Mayor’s Office of Special Events.
Southern Smoke is proud to pour incredible wines from our friends around the globe. The full list of wine and beer partners will be posted online as they are confirmed.