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Feast on the best barbecue in the region, all while supporting restaurant workers in crisis. 

Maria Yagoda
September 26, 2018

On Sunday, September 30, the fourth annual Southern Smoke Festival kicks off in Houston, bringing together the country's top chefs to cook, eat, and hang out for some excellent causes. This weekend, chefs like Daniela Soto-Innes, Chris Bianco, Billy Durney, Vivian Howard, and Edouardo Jordan descending upon Houston for the event, which will raise money for Southern Smoke's Emergency Relief Fund, a charity that helps restaurant workers get back on their feet after crises, and the MS Society. 

Chef Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015, after learning that his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; since, the organization has raised $454,000 for the MS Society. In 2017, Southern Smoke expanded its scope to help people in the restaurant industry affected by Hurricane Harvey, donating $501,000 to 139 people in need, according to their website

"Unfortunately, it’s very common in our industry not to have insurance, not to have a safety net," Shepherd tells Food & Wine. "We saw that with Harvey, but it happens year-round. So we accept applications year round. Are you having medical issues and need help with bills? We got you. You’re going through a tough time and need funds for counseling? We got you. You were in a car accident and need help with repairs? We got you. It’s about taking care of our own."

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The chef/owner of Underbelly Hospitality admits he never thought they'd be able to raise and donate more than a million dollars, but he's found that the support in Houston and around the country has been staggering. 

"We started a foundation to help, and my staff, the community, my friends from around the country have not only supported but stepped up to help us do the work," said Shepherd. "It’s a really remarkable thing."

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And: The food this weekend will be excellent. See below for what the all-star chefs will be cooking. 

Aaron Franklin: Brisket

Daniela Soto-Innes: Pulpo pastor with pineapple skewer

Edouardo Jordan: Jerk chicken with peas and rice and pineapple salsa

Chris Bianco: Texas Wise Guy pizza with wood-roasted onion, smoked mozzarella and bacon sausage

Pat Martin: Nashville-style whole hog

Sam Jones: Eastern North Carolina-style whole hog

Vivian Howard: Roasted squash with feta

Ryan Prewitt: Wood-roasted oysters with Chile butter and creamed collars 

Billy Durney: 44 Farms ribeye tacos

Jason Vincent: Swordfish with barbecued chickpeas, pancetta, green papaya and Fresno chiles

Tae Strain and Matthew Rudofker: Grilled short rib Ssam with kimchi 

Manabu Horiuchi and Hugo Ortega: Skipjack tacos and tamales de huitlacoche over crema de elote 

Seth Siegel-Gardner, Terrence Gallivan, Brandi Key: Banh mi-style sandwich with beef tongue

Justin Yu, Patrick Feges, Erin Smith: Smoked confit beef cheek with noodle soup salad

Ryan Pera: Chicken tacos with salsa Amarillo, butternut and cilantro; Red Chile pork tacos with smoked pineapple and Serrano 

Southern Smoke Festival, September 30, 2018, 4 - 8 p.m. (3 p.m. VIP entrance.) General admission tickets cost $200.

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