Feed The Need: Southern Smoke Is This Fall’s Don’t-Miss Meatfest

Antonio Gianola and Chris Shepherd

What: Southern Smoke
When: Sunday, November 6 from 4 to 8 p.m. (That’s tomorrow!)
Who Benefits: National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Cost: $200 General Admission; VIP is sold out
How To Buy: Visit the Southern Smoke web site

This is the second year of Southern Smoke, a massive fundraising event with lots of food, wine, star chefs, respected sommeliers and successful brewmasters. It was founded in honor of Houston sommelier Antonio Gianola who used to work with chef Chris Shepherd back when Catalan was still open.

Last year, when Gianola revealed that he had multiple sclerosis, Shepherd and many other friends in the food and wine industry created Southern Smoke to raise money for the South Central Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

This year’s event is large enough that it needs its own map and encompasses Underbelly, The Hay Merchant and Blacksmith.

Southern Smoke is such a big event, it needs its own map.
Southern Smoke is such a big event, it needs its own map. Click to see it in all its glory.

This might also be the only time when seven—count them, seven!—James Beard Award-winning chefs are all cooking together at the same time in Houston. They include five chefs visiting from out of town.

Here’s the star chef lineup:

  • Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s Barbecue in Austin (2014 Best Chef Southwest): Brisket
    Ashley Christensen of Poole’s Downtown Diner in Raleigh (2014 Best Chef Southeast) Beer Can Chicken
    Tandy Wilson of City House in Nashville (2016 Best Chef Southeast): Smoked Vietnamese-style bologna with nuoc mam slaw
    Ryan Prewitt of Pêche in New Orleans (2014 Best Chef South): Grilled oysters
    Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon in New Orleans (2011 Best Chef South): Boudin

The other two James Beard honorees are Houston’s latest winners: Chris Shepherd of Underbelly (2014 Best Chef Southwest) and Justin Yu of Oxheart (2016 Best Chef Southwest).

Rounding the team, who call themselves the “HOUBBQ Collective,” are semifinalists Seth Siegel Gardner and Terrence Gallivan of The Pass & Provisions as well as Ryan Pera of Coltivare. Their dishes include Uni and ‘shroom Pizzas, Fish Tacos, Gyros, Char Siu Banh Mi, Chuck Ribs and a clam bake.

As if all that wasn’t enough, acclaimed pitmaster Rodney Scott of Scott’s Bar-B-Que in South Carolina is smoking a whole hog.

Really, at this point you should already be scoping out the web site and figuring out how to buy tickets. But there’s even more awesomeness in the way of drinks, so let’s continue. We’ll start with the beer, which is the easy part. Saint Arnold is providing the suds.

Since Gianola is a sommelier, wines only make sense and there are a ton—so many that we’re not going to list them all here. Visit the Southern Smoke “Grapes & Grains” section for the full picture. However, here are some highlights. One bar will exclusively feature Lambrusco. Winemakers Jasmin Hirsch is pouring selections from her eponymous winery. Others represented include Fritz Müller, Scarpetta (be sure and try the Friulano Bianco and the Brut Rosé), Antonopoulos Vineyards from Greece, Château du Vieux Montpezat (a producer of Grand Vin Bordeaux) and Duchman Family Winery, one of the best in Texas.

Grammy winners Rebirth Brass Band will entertain Southern Smoke's guests with their New Orleans-style jams. Photo courtesy of Rebirth Brass Band
Grammy winners Rebirth Brass Band will entertain Southern Smoke’s guests with their New Orleans-style jams.
Photo courtesy of Rebirth Brass Band

Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band, known for their New Orleans sound with hip hop and funk influences, is playing live at the event. So is Folk Family Revival, a band of native Texans who blend folk, rock and blues into their music.

There are some truly awesome silent auction items as well. These include two tickets to the Super Bowl (conveniently being held in Houston on February 5), two VIP tickets to the Jimmy Kimmel Show (which includes a two-night stay at the Beverly Hills hotel) and two tickets on an industry-only trip to tour Belgian breweries and attend the Brussels Beer Fest. Preview all the silent auction items and register as a bidder online. 

If you can’t attend, you can still build some good karma by contributing to the MS Society from the Southern Smoke fundraiser web page. But we sure hope you can be at what sounds like an outstanding event.

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