Southern Smoke Launches $4 Million Chicago-Specific Fund, Thanks to Anonymous Donors

The Houston-based foundation seeks to aid a sister city during the ongoing Covid crisis.

Southern Smoke 2018
Southern Smoke 2018

When cities across the United States began shutting down in March, the sudden loss of work and income was felt nowhere more deeply than in the food service industry. The ongoing uncertainty as places cautiously reopen is still unsettling, and with negotiations regarding unemployment and stimulus money at a standstill in D.C., restaurant and hospitality workers are in trouble.


A study by consulting group McKinsey & Co has shown that half a million food service jobs in the Chicago metro area are at risk — but Houston's Southern Smoke Foundation is ready to help. Southern Smoke has distributed nearly $3 million in emergency grants to more than 1,600 individuals across the country in the last five months. The James Beard Foundation connected Southern Smoke with anonymous donors to create the new Chicago Restaurant Workers Relief Fund, which will give restaurant, bar and coffee shop workers in Cook County access to $4 million in emergency funds. The donors have also pledged to match further donations up to $1 million, bringing the potential total to a staggering $6 million.

Kathryn Lott; photo by Julie SoeferKathryn Lott; photo by Julie Soefer

Southern Smoke, run by executive director Kathryn Lott, will process the applications (anonymously, per its custom) and award the money in this Chicago fund just the way it has for its national Emergency Relief Fund. It is also hiring Chicago-based restaurant workers who have been laid off or furloughed as caseworkers, application screeners and more; full- and part-time positions are available, all paying $15 per hour.

AT TOP: Chris Shepherd; photo by Catchlight Photography

Business+Innovation
Duos, Trios and Teams: ‘Next-Generation’ Mother-Daughter Leppert Duo Debuts

Clare Leppert and Clementine, the Cavachon. Leigh Leppert and Benny, the Bernedoodle.

HOW DID YOU come together as a team? This fall, we are celebrating the introduction of an exciting real estate collaboration between Clare Leppert, longtime Houston Realtor®, and daughter Leigh Leppert. Clare shared a 20+ year real estate partnership with her mother, Bette Carpenter, until Bette’s death in 2016. Having worked solo for several years, Clare in 2021 was awarded Houston Business Journal’s No. 2 Luxury Realtor® in Houston. Leigh, who has been working in marketing for the past decade, has always shared a passion for real estate and watched Clare successfully balance family and career. We are excited to re-create the next generation of a mother-daughter duo at Compass!

Keep ReadingShow less

Ben Berg (photo by Douglas Burns)

THE NEW YEAR has already yielded its fair share of tastebud-tingling headlines — and here's a few more! From a prolific restaurateur's big announcement to a Houston institution's ambitious expansion, catch up on all the latest below.

Keep ReadingShow less
Food

Wiley's 'Judith and Holofernes'

THE ENERGY IN the foyer of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston’s Caroline Wiess Law Building is quite lively, thanks to the installation of two provocative paintings, painted 400 years apart — one by Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian 17th-century female artist, the other by Kehinde Wiley, a contemporary, Nigerian-born queer Black artist. Each depicts the grisly climax in the Old Testament Book of Judith, in which the widow Judith decapitates the Assyrian general Holofernes, thus saving her besieged Jewish city of Betulia.

Keep ReadingShow less
Art + Entertainment