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This Houston chef is committed to helping employees in the food and beverage industry

The COVID-19 pandemic has left countless of restaurant workers without jobs

HOUSTON – James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd is a respected name in the restaurant business, not only for his culinary talents, but also for what he’s been doing to help those in need from the food and beverage industry.

He shared with Houston Life all the effort he’s doing right here in our backyard with his foundation Southern Smoke.

Launched in 2015, Southern Smoke’s motto is taking care of our own, a mission they’ve been accomplishing since 2017 when they created an emergency relief fund for the hospitality workers affected by hurricane Harvey.

Catchlight Photography
Catchlight Photography (Michelle Watson)

Since the Covid-19 crisis started in March, the foundation went all in to help employees in an industry in crisis where many live paycheck to paycheck.

“When you get to a point where there’s no job, there’s no money, that’s a tough time. That’s a lot of heartache. We just want to make sure we can try to do our best to make sure people don’t have to fight those things,” said the chef known from his outstanding work at the restaurants UB Preserve, Georgia James and One Fifth.

“In the five weeks that we’re into this, we’ve got over 20,000 applications in right now. And today was a big day. Today we broke the million-dollar mark in grants for the past four weeks for 540 families,” said Shepherd, who emphasized that all applications are important but they go through a system to prioritize the urgency.

“Is it life or death? Is it medical? Are you going to lose your home? Your bills?, and then we go from there,” said Shepherd, who mentioned the team is working as fast as they can to award the grants.

“We have a long way to go. Even when all the all-clear bell sounds, we have a long way to go. And the need is not going to stop any time soon," said Shepherd.

“If you have a little extra, donate it. If you need it, apply. Don’t be shy. It’s an anonymous thing,” he said.

To donate to Southern Smoke, click here.


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