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 $11 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.