He’s collaborated on a wine list with Bun B. He’s business partners with a Houston Texan. And the first restaurant he opened in Houston paid tribute to the often unheralded cuisines and cooks in the Bayou City. Chris Shepherd is kind of like the unofficial mayor of Houston, or at least one of the city’s most visible and talented ambassadors. It’s no surprise then that his star-studded one-day Southern Smoke Festival, an outsized block party-meets-cookout featuring a roster of Shepherd’s friends and multiple fellow James Beard award winners, raises money to help defray medical costs for members of the Houston service industry. The non-profit organization supported by the festival has donated more than $1.4 million to industry members in need.
This year’s event takes place Sunday, and it is one of the few times you can taste Franklin Barbecue outside of Austin. Beard winner Aaron Franklin limits his outside appearances, but he’s been a staple at Southern Smoke. He will cook barbecue (and probably have the longest line) at the event outdoor Sunday afternoon that also features renowned pizza maestro Chris Blanco of Phoenix, Donald Link of New Orleans, fellow Houston Beard winners Hugo Ortega and Justin Yu, Ashley Christensen of North Carolina, colorful Canadian Matty Matheson and more. Tickets for the 4 to 8 p.m. event cost $200 and can be purchased online.