The Reward of Authenticity
James Beard Award-winning chef Ricky Moore has long served others through food . Along the way , he has also shaped culture and written a new food narrative for the state of North Carolina .
“ Food is often the most comforting thing when you are far away from home ,” he says . “ Sometimes , the only thing they have is knowing that somebody is cooking a good meal for them .”
Ricky ’ s rural upbringing in New Bern , along with international travel as a military child , helped shape his relationship with food .
“ I grew up on one-pot dishes and what we call ‘ country cooking ,’” Ricky says . This cooking style of his grandmas and grandpas is in his DNA .
Ricky considered pursuing the visual arts as a cartoonist or graffiti artist , but his artistic interests eventually led to the kitchen . Now , in his signature spicy mahi or Thanksgiving lobster roll , you can taste the meticulousness . Details matter .
Ricky carries himself with an unassuming presence and an unending curiosity . He ’ s always thinking , always listening . To appreciate the details , a person must hone the art of observation . Ricky learned the value of paying attention at a young age .
“ When I was about six years old , my best friend was a World War II vet ,” he says . “ He babysat me when I got off the bus until my mom got home . He had a swing on the porch , and he was sitting there waiting to talk to me . I ’ ve always been very fond of that friendship . And now , every time I see a person who is older , I want to talk to them . They keep me grounded .”
Ricky began cooking professionally while serving in the military . This gave him experience working in situations where cooking food and serving people was a huge responsibility . Ricky knew this was especially true for soldiers who are away from home .
“ Durham seemed like the best place to start my own concept of business .”
After his time in the military , Ricky attended the Culinary Institute of America , gaining invaluable early experience in New York City . His career led him to Chicago , Paris , Singapore and Washington , D . C . Fine dining has been the mainstay of his professional experience , with stints at such respected eateries as Equinox , Le Tarbouche , South Water Kitchen and more .
After traveling the world and developing his own culinary style , Ricky and his family nearly landed long-term in Singapore . He also was approached about opening an American restaurant in Dubai . The interviews piqued his interest , so Ricky traveled there for a few weeks to learn more and gain a feel for the offer .
In that process , Ricky had a realization . He wanted to be a business owner himself , and this was his time . “ It all had to happen that way ,” Ricky says . He knew immediately that his next step would be a return home . What better place to make his dream a reality than North Carolina ? When Ricky was trying to decide exactly where to plant new roots , Durham presented the most opportunities .
“ Durham seemed like the best place to start my own concept of business ,” he says . “ I look at it not as a restaurant first , but a business first . Durham had the right opportunities for me . I wanted to own a business , and I did not want it to be a high-brow restaurant .”
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