Ricky Moore, chef-owner at Durham’s own Saltbox Seafood Joint, has won the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

Moore was one of just 22 chefs and restaurants nationwide to take home an award at the James Beard Foundation’s ceremony last night, an annual red-carpet event widely recognized as the “Oscars of the food world.” 

“I opened up a space on the side of the road that was 205 square feet,” Moore said in his acceptance speech, during which he threw up a Bull City horns hand sign. “I put my heart and soul into it. Sometimes, I would be in there by myself with a line down the road. The support was tremendous. So I want to shout out my entire North Carolina community.”

Two other North Carolina establishments, both located in Asheville, triumphed last night: Cúrate, a tapas bar, won for “Outstanding Hospitality,” and Indian restaurant Chai Pani received the foundation’s prestigious “Outstanding Restaurant” award.

The awards have been on hiatus for the past two years. In 2020, despite releasing a list of finalists, the foundation decided to refrain from distributing awards—both that year and the next—citing pandemic-induced challenges and diversity issues in its selection and judging of nominees.

This year, the foundation established an ethics committee, diversified its judges, and made several other changes to ensure that its awards would be more inclusive.

“It’s always good to be recognized by your peers,” Moore told the INDY in April after being nominated for the award. “It’s been a wonderful thing to see the diversity that has been showcased. And I’ve been in the business 30 years, and this is just now happening.”

In his acceptance speech, Moore embraced inclusivity in his own right, making a point to thank the women who contributed to his win: his wife; his five employees, all of whom are female; and his suppliers.

“I opened up a place that celebrates North Carolina seafood, so I want to shout out North Carolina fisher folk,” Moore said. “What that means is fishermen and women.”

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Follow Staff Writer Lena Geller on Twitter or send an email to lgeller@indyweek.com.