Chris Shepherd created Southern Smoke to honor his friend and former sommelier, Antonio Gianola, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2014. Last year, the inaugural year, brought some of the best Southern chefs and pit masters to Houston for the first time and raised nearly $184,000 for the MS Society. 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 their own.
On November 6, 2016, Chris, along with the HOUBBQ Collective, will host the second 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, with the goal of raising $200,000 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 is a second-generation owner of Scott’s Bar-B-Que, which opened in Hemingway, S.C. in 1972. He cooks whole hog over custom wood-burning pits, a technique garnered Scott’s Bar-B-Que an American Treasures Award, a Grand Masters award at Meatopia New York City and inspired an oral history project by the Southern Foodways Alliance.
- Ashley Christensen: Ashley Christensen is the chef/owner of Poole’s Diner, Beasley’s Chicken + Honey, Chuck’s, Fox Liquor Bar, Joule Coffee + Table, 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.
- Stephen Stryjewski: Winner of the 2011 James Beard Foundation “Best Chef South,” Stephen Stryjewski is Chef/Partner of New Orleans’ award winning restaurants Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Pêche Seafood Grill, and Calcasieu, a private event facility. In 2007, Cochon was named a “Best New Restaurant” finalist by the James Beard Foundation, and in 2014, Pêche Seafood Grill won the James Beard Foundation award in the same category. Cochon was recently named one of the 20 most important restaurants in America by Bon Appétit. In 2015, Chefs Stryjewski and Business partner Donald Link, created the Link Stryjewski Foundation to address the persistent cycle of violence and poverty, as well as the lack of quality education and job training opportunities available to young people in New Orleans.
- Ryan Prewitt: Ryan Prewitt began his culinary career in the farmer’s markets of San Francisco, where a burgeoning interest in food developed into a full-blown career. After spending time working for chefs Robert Cubberly and Alicia Jenish at Le Petite Robert Bistro, he moved to New Orleans to work with Chef Donald Link at Herbsaint. Ryan proved to be a quick study under Link’s tutelage and became Chef de Cuisine in 2009. He subsequently moved on to oversee culinary operations at Link Restaurant Group as Executive Chef for the company. As a member of the Fatback Collective, a group of Southern chefs who have compiled numerous accolades and awards in restaurants across the South, Ryan has learned new traditions and techniques from many talented BBQ pitmasters and has traveled to Uruguay to study traditional open-fire cooking. These experiences, along with a trip to observe grilling techniques in Spain, culminated in the opening of Pêche Seafood Grill. Ryan received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South in May 2014, the same year Pêche earned the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant.
- Tandy Wilson: With both Italian restaurant training and travel in his repertoire, Tandy opened City House in December of 2007 in Nashville’s historic Germantown. It is here where Tandy showcases his love of fresh, local ingredients on an almost nightly basis while bridging the gap between authentic Italian cuisine and down-home Southern cooking. Tandy’s dedication to quality along with some Southern-Italian flare has also gotten the attention of the James Beard Foundation. After being nominated as a semi-finalist for Best Chef Southeast in 2013, 2014 and 2015, he took home the honor in 2016. His name regularly appears in Bon Appetit and he was named “Best New Chef in the Southeast” by Food and Wine magazine. But at the heart of it all, Tandy Wilson is a true Southern boy with a passion for good food and its humbling ability to bring folks together.
- 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, Oxheart’s Justin Yu and Chris Shepherd, made their debut at last year’s Southern Smoke. “Most chefs don’t choose this business,” said Seth Siegel-Gardner, co-owner of The Pass and Provisions. “It chooses them. They fall in love with it standing in the trenches on the line and getting crushed on a Saturday night. 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.”
$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 second year as a presenting partner. We’d also like to thank the JW Marriott Downtown, our exclusive hotel partner; The Mayor’s Office of Special Events; Gee Eye Care, Visit Houston, The National Pork Board; 44 Farms; Saint Arnold Brewing Company; Karbach Brewing Company; Hirsch Vineyards, Miner Family Vineyards.