Houston’s Biggest Food Festival Returns This October

Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Festival features an all-star lineup this year.

By Daniel Renfrow

Southern Smoke founder Chris Shepherd and the Southern Smoke smoker, which was made by Pitmaker and raffled off to raise money.

After a two-year hiatus, the Southern Smoke Festival is back. James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd and his non-profit, Southern Smoke Foundation, will be bringing the epic food festival back this year for three whole days instead of its usual one day. So, mark your calendars, because Friday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 23 promises to be the best three-day weekend for Houston area foodies this year. Shepherd and Co. have gone all out this year, with a stacked lineup that includes more than 60 chefs—many of them from Houston.

The festival is hosted by and benefits Southern Smoke Foundation, which has distributed nearly $10 million directly to people in the food and beverage industry nationwide through its Emergency Relief Fund since the non-profit’s inception back in 2015. In 2019, the last year the festival was held, $573,394 was raised for the foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund. Tickets for this year’s festival go on sale this week on Tuesday, Aug. 30.

When is the Southern Smoke Festival in 2022?

The festival this year takes place from Friday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 23. Each day of the festival will be ticketed separately. Below is a breakdown of each of the days.

H-Town Welcome Wagon

When: Friday, Oct. 21
Where: Lott Hall at Hermann Park
What: Hosted by Aaron Franklin and Hot Luck Fest at Hermann Park, the H-Town Welcome Wagon will offer ticket holders an evening of delicious bites by some of the most decorated chefs in the country. The evening will include some of Texas’ best wines, live music, and talks by Chris Shepherd and food writer and Top Chef judge Gail Simmons.
Tickets: $250 Early Entry, $150 General Admission

Southern Smoke on Ice

When: Saturday, Oct. 22
Where: The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa
What: At this afternoon soiree, ticket holders will have the opportunity to mingle with some of the South’s biggest chefs while enjoying selections from a raw bar that the festival is marketing as the “raw bar to end all raw bars.” High-end wines and bubbles will also be included, and guests will have the opportunity to watch the breakdown of a whole tuna (which will promptly be used to make made-to-order hand rolls).
Tickets: $1,000 (very limited)

East Downtown Throwdown

When: Sunday, Oct. 23
Where: East Downtown
What: Over 40 chefs from Houston and across the nation will pack into East Downtown for the festival’s grand finale, which will feature bites, beer, wine, spirits, live music, live fires, trailers, and pits. On hand will be culinary royalty such as Tom Colicchio, Andrew Zimmern, Brooke Williamson, Sarah Grueneberg, Dawn Burrell, and Aaron Franklin.
Tickets: $450 VIP, $225 General Admission

Why are tickets so much more expensive this year?

Regular attendees of the Southern Smoke Festival will understandably experience a bit of sticker shock this year, but it is all for a good cause (i.e. raising money for struggling food and beverage workers). It's worth noting that you absolutely do not need to attend all three days of the festival. The East Downtown Throwdown happening on Sunday, Oct. 23 is the most comparable experience to previous iterations of the festival, back when it was a one-day affair. Our money is on that day providing average festival goers with the most bang for their buck.  

What chefs will be at this year's Southern Smoke Festival?

Houston chefs include:

  • John Avila, El Burro & the Bull Restaurant Group
  • Bun B, Trill Burgers
  • Terrence Gallivan, Elro
  • Gabriel Medina, Click Virtual Food Hall
  • Trong Nguyen, Crawfish and Noodles
  • Benchawan Painter, Street to Kitchen
  • Jacklyn Pham, Saigon Pagolac
  • Jeff Potts, 93 Til
  • Easton Sadler, R-C Ranch Butcher Shop
  • Chris Shepherd
  • Joshua Weissman, YouTube
  • Jack Yoss, Hai Hospitality
  • Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi, Kata Robata
  • Aaron Bludorn, Bludorn
  • Graham Laborde, Winnie's
  • Leonard Botello IV, Truth BBQ
  • Dawn Burrell, Late August
  • Stephen Conklin, Hai Hospitality
  • Chris Cosentino, Rosalie Italian Soul
  • Chris Davies, Underbelly Hospitality
  • Patrick Feges, Feges BBQ
  • Greg Gatlin, Gatlin's BBQ
  • Shaun King, Hai Hospitality
  • Ryan Pera, Agricole Hospitality
  • Greg Peters, Underbelly Hospitality
  • Tim Reading, Underbelly Hospitality
  • Felipe Riccio, Goodnight Hospitality
  • Erin Smith, Feges BBQ
  • Martin Stayer, Nobie's
  • Chris Williams, Lucille's
  • Robin Wong, Blood Bros. BBQ

Non-Houston chefs include:

  • Ashley Christensen, AC Restaurants (Raleigh, NC)
  • Cheetie Kumar, Garland (Raleigh, NC)
  • Mike Lata, FIG (Charleston, SC)
  • Nicole Mills, Peche Seafood Grill (New Orleans, LA)
  • Jason Stanhope, FIG (Charleston, SC)
  • Karen Akunowicz, Fox & the Knife (Boston, MA)
  • Chris Bianco, Pizzeria Bianco (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Jamie Bissonnette, Little Donkey (Boston, MA)
  • Tavel Bristol-Joseph, Canje (Austin, TX)
  • Katie Button, Katie Button Restaurants (Asheville, NC)
  • Tom Colicchio, Crafted Hospitality (New York, NY)
  • Billy Durney, Hometown BBQ (Brooklyn, NY)
  • Kevin Fink, Hestia (Austin, TX)
  • Jeremy Fox, Rustic Canyon (Santa Monica, CA)
  • Aaron Franklin, Franklin Barbecue (Austin, TX)
  • Diego Galicia, Mixtli (San Antonio, TX)
  • Sarah Grueneberg, Monteverde (Chicago, IL)
  • Stephanie Izard, Girl & The Goat (Chicago, IL)
  • Marcus Jacobs, Marjie's Grill (New Orleans, LA)
  • Sam Jones, Sam Jones BBQ. (Ayden, NC)
  • Pat Martin, Martin's BBQ Joint (Nashville, TN)
  • Fermín Núñez, Suerte (Austin, TX)
  • Steven Redzikowski, Oak at Fourteenth (Boulder, CO)
  • Stephen Stryjewski, Link Restaurant Group (New Orleans, LA)
  • Rico Torres, Mixtli (San Antonio, TX)
  • Erick Williams, Virtue Restaurant (Chicago, IL)
  • Brooke Williamson, Playa Provisions (Los Angeles, CA)
  • Claudette Zepeda, VAGA (San Diego, CA)
  • Andrew Zimmern (Minneapolis, MN)
  • Mason Hereford, Turkey and the Wolf (New Orleans, LA)
  • Chad Houser, Café Momentum (Dallas, TX)
  • Brian Jupiter, Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern (Chicago, IL)
  • Jordan Rubin, Mr. Tuna (Portland, ME)
  • Gail Simmons (New York, NY)
  • Paola Velez (Washington, DC)
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