This year's Southern Smoke event will benefit restaurant workers impacted by Harvey

southern smoke
Credit: Courtesy of Catchlight Photography

For the third year in a row, Underbelly's Chris Shepherd is organizing Southern Smoke, the now-annual Houston barbecue that's making a name for itself as one of the more entertaining charity events in the food & beverage industry.

It's not hard to see why, either—first, there's the fact that this informal, outdoor event (October 22) brings together a dream team of Southern greats like Austin's Aaron Franklin, Raleigh's Ashley Christensen and New Orleans' own John Besh to do the catering. Then, of course, there's plenty to drink, which is important. (Underbelly's sommeliers are organizing the wine.) Finally, add in lots of live music, and the fact that all of this fun is actually in aid of a very good cause. What's not to like?

Kicked off in 2015 to raise funds for the National MS Society, after Shepherd's friend and former colleague, sommelier Antonio Gianola, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the event to date has raised roughly half a million dollars for the charity. This year's Southern Smoke, however, will be directing funds to fellow nonprofit Legacy Community Health, a Houston organization offering medical care on a sliding scale basis. Together, they'll be providing emergency assistance for those working in the regional culinary community that were left struggling to recover after Hurricane Harvey.

The event is known for its relatively informal feel, but the culinary lineup is anything but casual—there's brisket by Aaron Franklin, whose Austin barbecue joint draws fans from around the world, Rodney Scott, a South Carolina 'cue great, will do a whole hog roast. There's beer can chicken by Ashley Christensen, godmother of Raleigh's restaurant scene, as well as offerings from top Charleston chefs Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope, along with some of Houston's brightest culinary lights—including Shepherd himself. Good times.

Tickets are $200 for general admission; VIP passes with early entry are $350. Donations are accepted at