Chef Dean Neff previews his new Seabird restaurant, part 2

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WILMINGTON, NC — Some exciting changes coming to downtown Wilmington in a few weeks, with the opening of a major new restaurant on the corner of Market and Front streets.

James Beard Award-nominated chef Dean Neff of Wilmington will own and operate it– and he shares what’s cookin’ inside, as construction is winding down at one of the city’s most popular intersections.

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Here’s part 2 of his conversation with WWAY’s Donna Gregory:

Donna:So how does the pandemic affected the way you’ve re-thought about the opening of your restaurant– because you’re opening during a pandemic!

Dean: Right, it’s been a challenge and we’ve been looking to the James Beard foundation to recommend. They’ve been really supportive to community chefs and people in the industry to really direct their efforts so they can focus on things that matter. But from the standpoint of designing a restaurant…we’ve taken into consideration seating– limiting capacity but also expanding our outdoor seating….we’ve done that. Among other things we have filtered air, filtered water…we’re going to kind of the next level on making people feel like they’re in a safe place and depending on where we are in March [when the restaurant is expected to open] we’re gonna do everything we can to protect our crew…and make sure that we’re taking care of our crew and our guests because we want to be there for a long time.

Donna: We are looking forward to having you back in the studio whenever we’re able to do that but in the meantime, you’ve been doing some private events and figuring out how to stay socially distanced, and still do what you do.

Dean: Yeah, it can be a challenge but people are really receptive to having the conversation so when doing events, I’m currently doing some events that are very small and we typically do it outside so it’s an open air thing where I’m cooking on my own and I bring the food to an outdoor spot and [I’m] serving people that way…so working to stay as safe and as distant as possible and getting through it and it’s been nice to get back in touch with the food and really explore what it is that we’re gonna have on our menu at Seabird once we get open. For a while there I was just a father at home cooking creamed corn and baby food..so we’ve gotta start figuring out all the things. But fortunately it’s really easy for me in this community because we have so many wonderful farmers and sources of fish…and people who are really bringing great food to restaurants.  That’s why there are so many great restaurants here. and yeah, i feel really fortunate to be here, and ready to open.

Donna: And you have a really great hookup for desserts– will Lydia of Love Lydia be involved in that at all?

Dean: I hope so…she’s..

Donna: Can you afford her?!

Dean: It’ll depend on whether or not I can afford her! I hope so– to some degree…if she’s not doing it, i will guarantee I will be picking her brain for her desserts…she’s amazing and we’re gonna…we need her help…we need some Love.

Seabird is expected to open in early March, 2021. To stay up to date on the restaurant’s progress, visit https://chefdeanneff.com/seabird