A Helpful Guide to the 2023 Southern Smoke Festival in Downtown Houston

Southern Smoke founder chef Chris Shepherd and Bun B. Photo by Daniel Ortiz.

The 2023 Southern Smoke Festival is practically just around the corner. It’s happening this year on Friday, October 13 and Saturday, October 14 in downtown Houston. In advance of the biggest of two events, The Throwdown, the Southern Smoke Foundation (the charitable organization that benefits from the festival) has released a detailed map of where to find participating chefs and festivities. Tickets for The Throwdown cost $175 for general admission. (VIP tickets are sold out. The Friday night event, a dinner called “Respect The Rosé”, is also sold out.)

A helpful map of The Throwdown, the biggest event that is part of the 2023 Southern Smoke Festival
A helpful map of The Throwdown, the biggest event that is part of the 2023 Southern Smoke Festival. Graphic by Zach Horst. CLICK TO VIEW AND PRINT THE FULL-SIZED PDF.

A helpful map of The Throwdown by graphic designer Zach Horst shows important features, such as chef stations, beverage producers, exhibitors, the live stage and the all-important where-to-park (although you really ought to consider taking a rideshare if you’re going to partake of alcoholic beverages).

Many of Houston’s beloved local chefs are going to be at the event. Notable participants include Benchawan Painter aka “Chef G” of Street To Kitchen, Houston’s first woman chef to win the James Beard Award for Best Chef Texas. (Note that Street To Kitchen will soon close and move to a new home east of downtown.) Just a few others of the numerous featured local chefs are Manabu “Hori” Horiuchi of Kata Robata and forthcoming Katami, Aaron Bludorn of his eponymous Bludorn, as well as Navy Blue and David Cordúa of The Lymbar (which received a positive review earlier this year). Also, (as you may have guessed from our lead photo), Trill Burgers, which is co-owned by nationally acclaimed, Houston-based rapper and community activist Bun B and chef Mike Pham, among others, will be on hand.

Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin (left) with Chris Shepherd of Southern Smoke (right) at the 2018 Southern Smoke Festival.
Aaron Franklin of Franklin Barbecue in Austin (left) with Chris Shepherd of Southern Smoke (right) at the 2018 Southern Smoke Festival. Photo by Catchlight Photography.

As usual, there are also a bunch of notable culinary pros coming in from out-of-town or even out-of-state, including perpetual favorites such as Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ in Austin and Ashley Christensen of Ashley Christensen Restaurants in Raleigh, North Carolina. View the full list of featured chefs online.

Chef Chris Shepherd and his wife, Lindsey Brown, founded The Southern Smoke Foundation in 2015. Originally, it raised funds for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in honor of Antonio Gianola, a sommelier and respected wine professional who’d been diagnosed with this chronic disease. Later, after Hurricane Harvey hit, damaging many Houston restaurants and bars and temporarily putting thousands of Houston-area hospitality professionals out of work, the mission shifted to raising money to help businesses and workers in crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Texas restaurants into to-go-only service and closed bars that couldn’t offer food completely for months, solidified the mission of helping the hospitality industry. These days, the Southern Smoke Foundation helps not only locally, but nationally. To date, the foundation has distributed over $11 million in support.

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