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04 2023


05 2023

Meet Chef Ray, Chef de Cuisine of TS Steakhouse

Meet Chef Ray, Chef de Cuisine of TS Steakhouse

Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 2008, Chef Ray Wells has moved his way up through the many kitchens of Turning Stone. The resort’s selection of restaurants is nothing if not diverse, and over the years he’s been able to hone his skills in a variety of cuisines: Italian, Brazilian churrasco and new American, to name a few.

Moving up the Ranks, and Into The Tower

As a Syracuse native, launching his career at Turning Stone was an easy choice. He started as a cook at Season’s Harvest, a station-like buffet featuring popular dishes from around the world. He then went on to become the chef de tournant at Yellow Brick Road Casino. His supervisors were so impressed with his work that he kept earning promotions. In 2015, he was offered his current role as chef de cuisine at TS Steakhouse, above The Tower hotel. His first orders of business were to replenish staffing and work closely with his suppliers to find the best quality meats they offered.

Keeping it Fresh

Chef Ray’s goal from the beginning was to use the freshest items available, and he found the best way to exert quality control was to do as much in-house as possible. “90 to 95 percent of everything is made here,” he says.

This includes not just the baked goods and sauces, but the practice of dry aging the meats. Dry aging is a process that involves skill and patience, but results in more flavorful and tender meat. TS Steakhouse is the only restaurant in a thirty-mile radius that does its own dry aging.

He and his staff also have been growing herbs on their rooftop garden for a while now, and have recently built a greenhouse to grow the restaurant’s veggies such as peppers, lettuces and other leafy greens.

As for the menu items, Chef Ray likes to really look at each one carefully. Has it been on there too long? Is it going out of favor?  “It would be easy to do what everyone else is doing and keep the classics on the menu forever,” he says. “But that’s not what I’m looking to do.”

Additionally, four times a year he overhauls the menu altogether, working closely with his purveyors to see what fruits and vegetables have been growing well.  “It’s important not to just think about what’s in season every year, but to consider what the weather has been like.” Last year, he says, there was a lot of rain, which affected stone fruit like peaches and nectarines. “So, unfortunately, we didn’t have them on our menu then.”

The Benefits of Working at Turning Stone

What he likes about working at Turning Stone has been the many opportunities he’s had to move up through the kitchens. Hard work gets noticed, he says. “If you show your commitment and show you care about what you’re doing, you’ll definitely get the recognition.” The leadership team, he says, is very interested in finding talent within their ranks. “Whatever you put in you get back.”

He also appreciates the many opportunities to prepare such a diversity of cuisines. “Here you get the chance to work in a variety of styles. There aren’t many places where someone just starting out has access to such a range,” he says.

Now that he’s running his own kitchen, he really enjoys the freedom to try new things and experiment with trends to ensure the menu is fresh and innovative but always delicious.

The success of his approach is evident: TS Steakhouse gets a lot of repeat customers, consistently high guest ratings and a number of industry awards, most recently from Forbes Travel Guide and Wine Spectator.

What does he want his guests to walk away with after a meal at the Steakhouse?  “I want them to walk away full, for one,” he says. “But I really want them to walk away feeling like they’ve just had a special occasion, even if it was just a regular night out.”

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