Chef Dean Neff previews his new Seabird restaurant

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Construction is nearly complete on the new restaurant owned and operated by local James Beard Award-nominated chef Dean Neff.  A farm-and-sea-to-table restaurant, Seabird will feature local seafood and fresh produce from local vendors.

He recently spoke with WWAY’s Donna Gregory to talk about opening a restaurant during a pandemic. Here’s a portion of their conversation:

Donna: Alright, so Chef, a lot of people are used to seeing you on TV and various venues… What have you guys been doing during the pandemic, and how’s your family? Tell us what’s going on…

Dean: We’re doing well! We have a little one who is just over one right now. We’ve been spending time with him and have been doing a lot of work on the buildout of the new restaurant. It’s gonna be a complete rebuild and so it’s an old building that’s getting a complete makeover and we’re really excited about what’s happening in there now. It’s taking a long time but it’s gonna be worth it. And we’re working on recipes, we’re trying things out for the new menu and really getting focused on the new plans for Seabird.

Donna: And then what kinds of things can we expect to eat there? A lot of people are really excited, they’re seeing things happening there and they’re wondering, “What are we gonna have when we get there?”

Dean: So lots of seafood, obviously, we’re gonna have lots of oysters. We’re gonna also do a version of the slow smoked yellowfin or bigeye tuna…also experimenting with a swordfish schnitzel…something like that. Just lots of seafood. We want to celebrate all the good things that are coming out of the water in our local area and kind of you know celebrate the seasonality of seafood. Lots of shrimp; all different types of fish. We’re also gonna have catfish…I’m a big fan of catfish and there’s great farm raised NC catfish that we get from Aden, NC…that is delicious and really well farmed, sustainably farmed.

Donna: And then you’ll be using produce from local vendors and farmers as well?

Dean: We will, absolutely, yeah. Generally the way I work, most of the time these local farmers will show up with what they have. They show up weekly and drop the food off…and we pick through it and find what we have and we design our menu daily around that. So the menu changes to some degree every day.

Donna: And then what will the vibe be inside the restaurant? What will the atmosphere be?

Dean: So, we’re hoping the bar is a little more raucous and fun…it’s sort of separated out on its own. the main dining room will hopefully have a warm feel to it…you can see into the kitchen, there’s an opening where you can see what’s going on, see everyone cooking. We also have a chef’s table for different experiences…that may be like a fancier dinner on some nights but I’m also looking forward to having more family night things happening there so that kids can come up early and have a more kid friendly meal and look to see everyone cooking. We also have a private dining room which would be good for any kinds of private events and things like that…but we really want it to be just a community restaurant– we want it to have…there’s a place in that restaurant i think for everyone so I’m really excited to get it unveiled and opened for sure.

Donna: Everybody is waiting for that.

The interview continues …and for more information on Seabird, visit

Categories: Community, Local, New Hanover

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