We need to dish the good news. Ricky Moore of Durham’s Saltbox Seafood Joint won Best Chef: Southeast during last night’s 2022 James Beard Awards — otherwise known as the Oscars of the culinary world — in Chicago. This is his first James Beard Award.
“This recognition reaffirms that this region is authentic, unique, and destination worthy,” Ricky told RALtoday. “[The Triangle] is on par with any other recognized food scene in the country.”
Another local chef and one local restaurant were up for one of the profession’s most prestigious honors, which the James Beard Foundation revamped after a two-year hiatus and internal audit.
Cheetie Kumar of Raleigh’s Garland was also nominated for Best Chef: Southeast + four of the five finalists were from NC. Alley Twenty Six, an upscale cocktail spot and eatery in Durham, was nominated for Outstanding Bar Program.
“[To be nominated] is incredibly flattering and humbling at the same time,” owner Shannon Healy said. “We’re happy to be here and to be carrying the flag for so many outstanding NC bars.”
Alley Twenty Six lost to Julep in Houston, TX.
👋 Meet the winner + finalists
Originally from New Bern, Ricky has worked around the world in fine-dining kitchens in places like New York and Paris. However — “NC is home, and my culinary DNA was created here,” Ricky said. “The agriculture and aquaculture feed my creativity.”
Ricky opened the original Saltbox in 2012. His restaurant (now located at 2637 Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd., Durham) takes inspiration from American fish camps and waterside seafood shacks, featuring fresh, seasonal seafood like whole black bass, griddled Yellowfin tuna, and fried Blueline tilefish.
Next, he plans to roll out a retail line of signature seafood breader, seasoning, and sauces under the Saltbox brand.
Cheetie was born in India and raised in Bronx, NY before moving to Raleigh and opening Garland (14 W. Martin St.) in 2013. Her downtown restaurant serves Indian and Asian cuisine with a Southern twist. Cheetie, who is a self-taught cook, has been a James Beard Awards semi-finalist six times and is not only a chef, but a rock guitarist, too.
Named after the alley it borders, Alley Twenty Six (320 East Chapel Hill St., Durham) offers a robust cocktail menu. “If you are in the mood for a classic, you should try the Alley Cocktail (our spin on a classic Manhattan),” Shannon said. “If you want something surprising, try our Mexican Herbalist. It’s an interesting, yet approachable tequila cocktail.” The bar has been around since 2012.
This summer, Alley Twenty Six is hosting “Islands in the Alley,” a popup with tropical-inspired cocktails like “Tropic Like It’s Hot.”