Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015 after learning his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Southern Smoke has donated $654,000 to the MS Society, making it the largest third-party fundraiser in a five-state area.
In 2017, Southern Smoke shifted its focus to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey and donated $501,000 to 139 people in need. Recognizing a need, the Southern Smoke Foundation created an Emergency Relief Fund for people in the food and beverage industry in crisis.
The proceeds of the 2019 Southern Smoke Festival will once again raise funds for both the Southern Smoke Emergency Relief Fund and the National MS Society.
To date, Southern Smoke has donated more than $1.5 million—both directly to people in need and to organizations that represent the needs of people in our industry. As Chris says, Southern Smoke was created to “take care of our own.”