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Tar Heel of the Year 2022
Ricky Moore grew up fishing in New Bern and Havelock and brought his love for North Carolina seafood to his restaurant and the people of the Triangle. Meet Moore, the owner of Saltbox Seafood Joint and The News & Observer’s 2022 Tar Heel of the Year.
The James Beard Foundation’s awards are considered the Oscars of the culinary and hospitality industry.
A win can catapult a chef or restaurant into the national conversation about food as well as serve as a point of pride for a city and its foodie community.
The James Beard Awards, which were first given in 1991, celebrate “excellence in the food and beverage and related industries.” In addition to chefs and restaurants, the foundation gives media and cookbook awards.
Over time, those who win the awards are more than just chefs who make an amazing plate of food. According to the Foundation, the winning chefs also set “high culinary standards” and have “served as a positive example for other food professionals, while contributing positively to their broader community.”
North Carolina, which has cultivated a buzzy food scene in some of its biggest cities, regularly has chefs nominated as semifinalists and finalists for the annual awards. North Carolina is included in the Southeast region, which has restaurants from Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Despite the steady spotlight, only a few chefs have taken home the medal showing the face of James Beard, the famed cookbook author, cooking TV show host and champion of the food world.
North Carolina’s James Beard Award winners
▪ Ben Barker of the former Magnolia Grill in Durham won Best Chef: Southeast in 2000.
▪ Karen Barker, Ben Barker’s wife, also of Magnolia Grill, won Outstanding Pastry Chef for the United States in 2003, North Carolina’s first national award.
▪ Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill won Best Chef: Southeast in 2011 for Lantern, a Franklin Street restaurant that blends Asian flavors with ingredients from small farms and producers in North Carolina.
▪ Raleigh chef and restaurateur Ashley Christensen has brought home two awards. Christensen, who owns Poole’s Diner, Death & Taxes and several other restaurants, first won Best Chef: Southeast in 2014. In 2019, she won Outstanding Chef in the country.
▪ Ricky Moore won the award for Best Chef: Southeast in 2022 for Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham. He was previously a semifinalist for the award in 2020. After years in fine dining, he built Saltbox as an ode to the Eastern North Carolina seafood joints he knew growing up. Moore is also the 2022 Tar Heel of the Year.
▪ Asheville’s Chai Pani won for Outstanding Restaurant, the top award for restaurants, in 2022. Owned by Meherwan Irani, Chai Pani has built a menu around Indian Street Food.
▪ Cúrate in Asheville won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Hospitality in 2022. The restaurant is owned by married couple Katie Button and Felix Meana. The award recognizes the dining experience and front-of-house workers. Button has been a frequent James Beard nominee and finalist in the Southeast chef category.