You could smell it from blocks away.

You could hear it, too. But again: You could smell it from blocks away.

Southern Smoke 2018, held Sunday in Montrose, brought out some of the culinary world's brightest stars. It also brought out all five senses. The food was at times heavenly. The buzz was strong. And while the rain reared its head over chef Chris Shepherd's annual celebration of gastronomical ingenuity, good vibes won the day, and the Southern Smoke Foundation raised $425,000 for three causes.

First, $214,000 went to the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund, which helps members of the food and beverage community in times of need; $200,000 went to the MS Society (the festival was first organized to help a friend of Shepherd's diagnosed with multiple sclerosis); and $10,000 went to a charity of choice for Hurricane Florence relief in North Carolina. Chefs Vivian Howard and Sam Jones of the Tar Heel State will choose the direction of those funds.

Meanwhile, 1,561 people attended the festival, and we're pretty sure more than half of them stood in line for Franklin BBQ brisket and sausage. Aaron Franklin of the vaunted Austin barbecue temple has been to Southern Smoke every year, and his table is the highlight for most attendees. But there were so many great plates, from Chris Bianco's bacon and gouda pizza to Ryan Prewitt's oysters, just for starters. 

Local chefs and restaurateurs Hugo Ortega, Justin Yu, Ryan Pera, and Manabu Horiuchi also dazzled, and ticketholders interested in a silent auction got a sneak preview of Georgia James, Shepherd's soon-to-open steakhouse.

Entertainment included performances by the Bayou City Brass Band, Mariachi Los Gallitos, Max Flinn and Neon Rainbow. Chingo Bling served as emcee. 

For more info about Southern Smoke, visit southernsmoke.org.

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