Chris Shepherd back at the first Southern Smoke in 2015. Those innocent days.

Aaron Franklin, Chris Bianco, and some of the most acclaimed chefs in the country will be in Houston for the fifth annual Southern Smoke festival, Chris Shepherd's annual smoked meats party set for 4-8 p.m. Oct. 6 behind Georgia James and Hay Merchant, and benefitting the Southern Smoke Foundation. But along with those names are a slew of local chefs, who will have the opportunity to wow the crowd with their pit-smoking skills.

This year's lineup, announced Wednesday, includes some of the biggest names in Houston: Hugo Ortega (Xochi, Caracol, Backstreet Cafe, Hugo's), Jonny Rhodes (Indigo), Justin Yu (Theodore Rex), Martin Stayer (Nobie's), Lyle Bento (1751 Sea and Bar), Felipe Riccio (Rosie Cannonball, Goodnight Charlie's), Trong Nguyen (Crawfish and Noodles), Erin Smith and Patrick Feges (Feges BBQ), Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi (Kata Robata), and Jason Vaughn (Nancy's Hustle). In previous years Houston chefs were relegated to a small area of the festival and were branded the HOUBBQ Collective, but this year they'll each have their own stations. 

Joining them will be names familiar to Southern Smoke fans, including Ryan Prewitt of Peche Seafood Grill in New Orleans, Chris Bianco of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, and of course, Aaron Franklin of Franklin BBQ in Austin. The famous Texas pitmaster has been featured at all five Southern Smoke festivals, and took part in the first Southern Smoke spring event this past year.

Other names you'll see at Southern Smoke: Yehuda Sichel of Michael Solomonov's Abe Fisher in Philadelphia; Victoria native, former sous chef at Brennan's of Houston, and James Beard winner and Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg of Monteverde in Chicago; and Chris Cosentino, whose Rosalie Italian Soul is soon to open at the C. Baldwin Hotel in downtown. Charley Crockett and Folk Family Revival will perform at the event.

Shepherd started Southern Smoke in 2015 as a fundraiser for his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola, who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2017 the festival's mission shifted to assist people in the food and beverage industry needing emergency relief, as a response to Hurricane Harvey. The Southern Smoke Foundation has donated more than $1.3 million to people and organizations throughout the culinary world.

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Brennan’s of Houston

$$$$ Cajun, Creole, Seafood, Southern 3300 Smith St.

Housed in the old Junior League of Houston building on the edge of Midtown where it meets Montrose, this stalwart seafood palace was also the site of Aurora ...

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$$ Barbecue 3 Greenway Plaza Suite C210

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$$ Cajun, Seafood, Vietnamese 11360 Bellaire Blvd., Ste 990

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$ Mexican/Tex-Mex 2531 Keuster St.

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$$$ American/New American 2048 Colquitt St.

Chef Martin Stayer's grandmother was the inspiration for this comfortable restaurant inside a Montrose home, but the food is anything but old fashioned. Try ...

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$$$$ African, American/New American, Soul Food 517 Berry Road

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Hugo’s

$$$ Mexican/Tex-Mex 1600 Westheimer Rd.

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$$$ American/New American 1103 S. Shepherd

One of the main attractions at Backstreet Café on Shepherd near West Gray— helmed by chef Ortega of Hugo’s, along with his wife, Tracy Vaught—is the patio se...

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$$$ Mexican/Tex-Mex 2200 Post Oak Blvd., Ste. 160

The cool crudos at Caracol, chef Hugo Ortega’s beguiling Galleria-area restaurant, may be the perfect antidote to the summer heat. Among the offerings: lime-...

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$$$ Mexican/Tex-Mex 1777 Walker St.

This elegant eatery on the ground floor of the Downtown Marriott Marquis isn't your average hotel restaurant. It's Houston's first upscale Oaxacan restaurant...

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$$ American/New American 1100 Westheimer Rd.

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