Offering a Texas-sized welcome, this opening-night party–the H-Town Welcome Wagon–will take place at the historic and charming Lott Hall at Hermann Park and is hosted by Aaron Franklin and Hot Luck Fest. Here at this 1933 site, Houstonians and out-of-towners will enjoy an evening of delicious bites by some of the most decorated chefs in the country in the beautiful courtyard garden overlooking Hermann Park Golf Course and the stunning, newly renovated indoor ballroom. Headlining a night will be a perfect pair: Southern Smoke founder and James Beard award winner Chris Shepherd and food writer and Top Chef judge Gail Simmons. Add in Texas’ best wines, plus live music by Texas singer-songwriter Robert Ellis, Austin alternative rockers Me Nd Adam, and DJ G-Funk of Houston, and it will certainly be a night to remember!
One night in 2015, Chris’s friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola asked if Chris could host a fundraiser for the MS Society. After learning Antonio had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis earlier that week, Chris decided to throw a party with some of his chef and pit master friends and ultimately raised $181,000 for the MS Society.
The event grew each year, with more chefs from around the country traveling to Houston to raise money for a great cause. When Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston and the food and beverage industry, we quickly changed our mission for both the Southern Smoke Festival and the Foundation to provide financial assistance to anyone in the food and beverage in crisis nationwide. We continue to serve up flavors from some of the country’s best chefs at our annual festival, all to benefit our fellow industry workers across the U.S.
Food & Wine magazine calls our three-day weekend “unmissable.” The Houston Chronicle calls it “an over-the-top barbecue-beer-and-wine festival.”
We call it our favorite way to get together. Every time you buy a festival ticket, piece of merch, or bid on an auction item, the profits directly support our Emergency Relief Fund and general operations, which gets industry individuals financial help just as soon as they need it. Grants have been used to pay for essentials like groceries, clothing, and medications, and have covered the cost of car repossessions, rent, natural disaster damages, lost wages, and more.
To date, we’ve distributed more than $10 million directly to people in need, and with your support—by wining and dining your way through the weekend—we’re able to help even more of those in need.
Cheers to a damn good time.