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In The Kitchen with Bret Thorn

Ricky Moore brings a lifetime of travel and experience home to Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, N.C.

The award-winning North Carolina native and former Iron Chef America competitor adds a chef’s touch to local delicacies


Ricky Moore is the chef and owner of Saltbox Seafood Joint in Durham, N.C., which specializes in a rotating line of mostly local and seasonal fish and shellfish, plus his own interpretations of specialties from eastern North Carolina. The food is all re-envisioned through the prism of his own culinary experience, which includes growing up as an Army brat in Germany, traveling the world as an army cook when he followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the service himself, attending The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., and working in some of the world’s greatest restaurants. He also competed on Iron Chef America in 2007.

Moore is himself a North Carolina native, from the coastal town of New Bern, and the food at Saltbox reflects that as well with dishes such as hush-honeys — a cross between Southern hushpuppies and Italian zeppoli — and crab & grits, which he sees as his answer to South Carolina’s shrimp & grits.

Saltbox was originally the size of a line cook’s workstation — 205 square feet total — but he opened a new, larger location in 2017 and eventually closed the original space early in the pandemic.  

This year he won the James Beard Foundation Restaurant & Chef Award for Best Chef in the Southeast.

He recently discussed his approach to cooking, his reasoning behind operating Saltbox the way he does and his plans for the future.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected] 

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