Chef Chris Shepherd displays his crawfish juggling talents at a backyard mudug fest. (Instagram photo)
B&B Butchers' dining room is empty, but takeout orders go on. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
A Southern Smoke event
Underbelly Hospitality chef/owner Chris Shepherd proudly displays his restaurant offerings now being sold at H-E-B's across the city. (Courtesy photo)
Lindsey Brown & fiancé Chef Chris Shepherd photographed in November (Evie Mae Photography via Instagram)
It’s hard to imagine and golden to hear that the just-announced $1 million gift from the New York-based Restaurant Workers Community Foundation to Houston-based Southern Smoke Foundation is just the beginning. James Beard Award-winning chef and Southern Smoke founder Chris Shepherd received details of the contribution on Wednesday and news that the national foundation will be donating 50 percent of all funds raised during the pandemic to Southern Smoke.
It’s a hallelujah moment for Shepherd, for the foundation and for food industry folks in need.
Readers will recall that Southern Smoke, a crisis relief organization, jumped into action with the COVID-19 edict that closed restaurant dining rooms and bars in late March, leaving most of Houston and the nation’s wait staff unemployed.
Wednesday was a milestone day for Southern Smoke in terms of yet another remarkable number. On that day alone, the foundation granted $50,276 to restaurant and bar workers in crises, bringing the COVID-19 total to $390,107 granted to 206 individuals nationwide. And the number of recipients and dollars distributed continues to grow.
“To know that our donors are trusting their money — their investment in their community — to us, is what we take most seriously,” Southern Smoke executive director Kathryn Lott tells PaperCity. “These funds, and all the funds we will continue to raise through the help of our supporters, are going directly to our mission.”
Southern Smoke is providing emergency support nationwide to those in need in all aspects of the food chain including farmers, ranchers, servers, busers, bartenders, owners, chefs, cooks, wine growers, distillers and more. With the added funding and growing requests, staffing at the foundation has jumped from two last month to 20 earlier this week now to 30, all whom are furloughed food and beverage professionals who are now serving as case workers.
“We are so proud to be able to aid in the wellness and care of the people who are suffering across the nation right now,” Lott adds. “Every day we hear from families who are sleeping in their cars, people who cannot afford essential medications to live, and general terror from being on the brink of homelessness in a time when we are asked to take shelter.”
As of Wednesday, Southern Smoke had received 16,508 applications for assistance during the pandemic and is granting between $25,000 and $40,000 per day at an average of $2,000 per applicant.