April 22, 2021

Now Serving in Houston: Shake Shack x Chef Chris Shepherd Collab

Chris Shepherd holding a burger

This week, we’re heading to Houston to kick off our first Now Serving series collaboration with James Beard Award-winning chef, Chris Shepherd of Underbelly Hospitality.

“We’ve had the chance to get to know Chris since we opened our Montrose location in 2019, and we’ve been dreaming of the opportunity to partner for quite a while,” said Mark Rosati, Culinary Director of Shake Shack.

Keeping it local

When it comes to partnerships, it’s no secret, we keep our standards high—seeking out leaders in the culinary industry to bring our guests crave-worthy menu items made with local, quality ingredients. We’re thrilled to join forces with Chef Chris to serve Houston fans the Southern Smoke Chicken for a good cause.

This one-day-only collab sandwich pays homage to one of Chef Chris’ most popular menu items and features a crispy, hand-breaded chicken breast topped with Chris’ spicy bacon jam, pickled jalapeño mustard, cherry peppers, and shredded lettuceon a non-GMO Martin’s potato roll.

crispy chicken sandwich with toppings

Good eats for a good cause

As a part of our Now Serving collab series, net proceeds from The Southern Smoke sandwich will be donated to Chef Chris Shepherd’s non-profit Southern Smoke Foundation—a Houston-based, national crisis relief organization that provides support for individuals in the food and beverage industry.

As a part of our mission to Stand for Something Good®, we’re committed to supporting and investing in our local communities.

Chris working in the kitchen

Meet the chef

We recently sat down with Chef Chris to get the scoop on everything from his success in the Houston food scene to his go-to Shack order:

 Tell us about yourself and your career.
My first job in the [restaurant] industry was washing dishes at a sushi bar in Tulsa. I slowly moved up and had finally made it to the hot food station, when my boss told me it was time to go to culinary school. I worked full time and went to school full time and eventually—after several country club jobs—I accepted a job as a line cook at Brennan’s of Houston. I was there for 9 years—seven in the kitchen and two running the wine program. I left to open Catalan Food & Wine, ran that kitchen for five years, and then left to open Underbelly [Hospitality].

 Can you break down the ingredients and flavors in the Southern Smoke Chicken for us?
We took the classic delicious Shake Shack chicken sandwich and added some things I love and elements that speak to the local cuisine and flavors here in Texas. Bacon jam makes everything better, and jalapeño pickled mustard has been my new go-to on sandwiches and burgers. 

 Proceeds from this collab will be donated to your organization, Southern Smoke. Can you tell us more about this non-profit? What inspired you to start it?
Southern Smoke started out as a small fundraiser for the MS Society and has evolved into a national crisis relief organization. It’s really mind-blowing to see how far we’ve come in six years.

There’s not a safety net for [the culinary] industry, so we need to be able to take care of our own. We realized this when we provided crisis relief for people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey. It’s not just natural disasters—people in our industry face crises every day, and we need to be there to help.

The past year has been hard for restaurants in Houston. Being a small business has been tough on everybody, not just restaurants. We’ve taken the brunt of things, hoping we can get to the other side of this pretty soon.

What makes the Houston dining scene so special?
Diversity. We have so many cultures in this city. Everywhere you turn there’s a different type of cuisine you can eat no matter where you are.

Favorite food spots in Houston?
I have different families that I go visit. Cali Sandwich, London Sizzler, Crawfish and Noodles, Saigon Pagolac. I love visiting Chef Hori at Kata Robata for the best sushi.

 Of all the restaurants in the world, why partner with Shake Shack?
Because it’s delicious! With the Montrose [Shack] being so close, it’s just our community working together. It’s been wonderful partnering with the Shake Shack team to get creative for a good cause and I’m stoked this collaboration will give back to Southern Smoke. We can’t wait for Houston to try it out.

Burning questions

What’s your go-to Shake Shack order? Classic double [ShackBurger]. Perfectly constructed.
What’s your favorite ingredient to cook with? Fish sauce!
What’s your most cherished recipe? What’s a recipe?
Describe the Southern Smoke Chicken in three words. Sweet. Tangy. Crunchy.

hand holding sandwich in front of We Heart Houston sign


Where and when to snag the Southern Smoke Chicken

Houston fans can grab The Southern Smoke Chicken on Thursday, March 4th at the Montrose and Rice Village Shake Shack locations. Come ready for some live music, custom merch and more!

Swing by the Shack and order IRL, or skip the wait and opt for contactless payment and pick-up by ordering ahead on our Shack App or online.

Ahead of the collab, we’re hosting two additional donation days in celebration of this partnership. On March 1st and March 2nd, we’re donating 25% of proceeds from orders at the Montrose or Rice Village Shacks to Southern Smoke. To contribute, stop by or order ahead on the Shack App or online and use code DONATION at checkout.

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