Durham chef wins James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Southeast

13 June 2022

— Durham chef Ricky Moore of Saltbox Seafood won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef in the Southeast on Monday night.

Moore was a semi-finalist for the honor in 2020.

Moore opened Saltbox Seafood on North Mangum Street in 2012. A second location followed at 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd. in 2017. The original location closed its doors in 2021.

In an interview with WRAL in 2020, Moore described his culinary journey, which took him across the globe.

Saltbox Seafood owner Ricky Moore

Moore almost didn’t become a chef. He started out wanting to become an artist.

“I was going to go to school for art. That’s all I did in high school,” Moore said. “I got a scholarship to go to East Carolina University, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to go to school.”

Instead, Moore joined the U.S. Army and became a cook, where he said a good meal could boost morale.

“As a military cook, you took pride in the idea,” he said.

After a decade with the Army, Moore eventually went to the Culinary Institute of America. Internationally, Moore has cooked in Paris, Singapore and Toronto. Stateside he cooked for years in Chicago and Washington D.C.

“I just want to make sure that I always stayed diversified,” Moore said.

The James Beard Award winners were announced during a gala at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. This year’s in-person event is the first since 2019.

Kumar’s competition for the award featured Cheetie Kumar of Garland in Raleigh, Katie Button of Cúrate in Asheville and Gregory Collier of Leah & Louise in Charlotte.

North Carolina chefs have a history of winning James Beard Awards. Lantern’s Andrea Reusing won best chef in the southeast in 2011. Ben Barker of Magnolia Grill won the same honor in 2000. Karen and Ben Barker of Magnolia Grill won outstanding pastry chef in 2003.

Raleigh’s Ashley Christensen, who won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef in 2019, won the award for best chef in the southeast in 2014.

Several North Carolina restaurants and chefs finalists for national James Beard Awards.

Durham’s Alley Twenty Six was the first North Carolina bar or restaurant to be named a finalist for Outstanding Bar Program in the country. Julep in Houston took home of the honor.

“We’re just incredibly proud to get to carry the flag for North Carolina,” owner Shannon Healy told WRAL earlier this month. “Being the first in this category for North Carolina, we get to represent other outstanding bar programs in the state.”

Alley Twenty Six owner Shannon Healy

Cleophus Hethington, the chef of Benne on Eagle in Asheville, was a finalist for Emerging Chef. The award was presented to Edgar Rico of Nixta Taqueria in Austin, Texas.

Asheville was also represented in two other categories with Chai Pani in Asheville named a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant and Cúrate in Asheville a finalist for Outstanding Hospitality.

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