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.