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Houston celebrity chef Chris Shepherd leaving restaurant group he founded to focus on smaller projects, nonprofit foundation

"It’s time for me to focus on smaller projects and dedicate more time to Southern Smoke," Shepherd said in a statement.

HOUSTON — Celebrity chef Chris Shepherd is officially stepping away from Underbelly Hospitality, the Houston restaurant group he founded 10 years ago.

"It’s time for me to focus on smaller projects and dedicate more time to Southern Smoke. Underbelly Hospitality is in great hands with MLB Capital Partners and the team we have assembled over the last five years," Shepherd said in a statement. "I’ve put my heart and soul into these restaurants, and I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished. I want to thank the entire Underbelly family for always being there, showing up and giving it everything, always."

Editor's note: The videos attached to this article are from previous reports.

Southern Smoke is a nonprofit foundation with the goal of raising money for charitable causes. According to the foundation's website, Shepherd created the foundation in 2015 after finding out one of his friends had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“Southern Smoke is on a path that myself, Lindsey and the whole team are very proud of, and it’s time to push that even further. We are about to hit $10 million in grants, and we’re expanding the free mental health initiatives into five states within the next few months—we plan to be in all 50 by 2028," Shepherd said.

Although he's leaving the restaurant group, Shepherd said he doesn't plan on leaving the city anytime soon.

"Thank you, Houston, for the past, present and future support. This is my home, and I’m not going anywhere. I’m excited to see what the future holds for all of us," he said.

"As I always say, Underbelly is no longer a restaurant — it’s a way of life. Explore your surroundings. Learn about people, where they’re from, and how to dine at the same table. Learn from anyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, age, or gender. Understand that everyone has a story to tell. We are always learning. It’s time for me to learn a new chapter."

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