Using local seafood nets James Beard Award for North Carolina chef


Chef Ricky Moore's devotion to local seafood and traditional ways of cooking it has earned him the Oscar of the food world.

Moore doesn't cook fancy dishes at his Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, N.C. Crab "chowdah," soft shell crabs fried "hard" until their extra-extra-crispy and fried fish fillets on white bread are the kinds of simple foods that populate the menu. Fans come back again and again because Moore is devoted to sourcing seafood from North Carolina commercial fishers and cooking it in the eastern North Carolina style he and others on the state's coast grew up eating.

Although Moore has decades of fine dining restaurant and hospitality experience, the New Bern native came home to North Carolina to prove that "ordinary, simple food can be extraordinary when executed at the highest level." The James Beard Foundation agreed. In 2022, it gave Moore its Best Chef Southeast award.

The NC Catch Chef Ambassador has been a long-time supporter of the state's commercial fishers and seafood bounty. The marquee at Saltbox boldly boasts "NC SEAFOOD." Moore was in the kitchen when Carteret Catch hosted its 2017 Dinner on Trawler, and he has spread the local seafood gospel at NC Catch Summits. Moore has also provided seafood cooking ideas to NC Catch's recipe page and wrote the "Saltbox Seafood Joint" cookbook.

Recipe: Ricky Moore's favorite seafood breading

"I opened up a place that celebrates North Carolina seafood so I'm going to shout out North Carolina fisher folk, which means fisher men and women," Moore said after accepting the award, Axios reported. 

Moore took his message international in 2022 when he hosted world-renown Migrationology food show host Mark Wiens. Watch the video at Wiens' YouTube channel. 

The chef also promotes Black food history. In February, he featured Black History Month seafood specials that told important stories from around the globe. "These dishes speak to the global influence African food has had on our food culture in the Americas, not just the United States," Moore told QSR Magazine. 

Saltbox Seafood Joint opened as a tiny walk-up in 2012. Today, the restaurant offers sit-down service at 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard, Durham.

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