Chef de Cuisine Ray Wells spends most of his time these days in the stratosphere.
Yes, we’re being literal — as the head of the kitchen at TS Steakhouse at the top of the Tower, Ray’s office is 253 feet above the ground. Of course, we’re also spreading metaphors; because Ray’s food is so delicious, it is essentially transcendent.
“I’m always trying to get better, always trying to come up with a new way to prepare a dish that people will love,” he said. “Being at the Steakhouse affords me that opportunity every day.”
Ray’s career with the Oneida Indian Nation began 13 years ago; he did his Culinary Institute of America externship with us and came to work full-time as soon as he graduated. The Syracuse native got his foot in the door as a cook in the buffet, then worked his way up to opening the Steakhouse as a sous chef. Later he took time off to open Upstate Tavern and YBR Casino & Sports Book before returning to the Steakhouse.
Flexibility is something Ray loves about his job; he relishes the opportunity to bring together different kinds of American cuisine. He loves being able to stack the menu with steak, oysters, lobster and miso-marinated sea bass. He said he appreciates that the Oneida Indian Nation gives him the freedom to do it.
Today he tries to keep the menu seasonal and fresh, changing things up four or five times a year.
Ray also strives to keep dishes connected to the region. He uses local ingredients whenever possible He even buys his bread from a bakery in Hamilton. “We’re not getting anything outsourced, except maybe mustard,” he joked.
When asked about his inspiration for cooking, Ray cites his Italian grandmother, noting that, as a child, he helped her cook sauce and meatballs every Sunday. Though he doesn’t keep meatballs on the menu permanently, sometimes he’ll make an elevated version with scraps from Wagyu tenderloins. He says he does this in her memory (she died in 2016).
Looking forward, Ray said he’ll continue to push boundaries in his kitchen, mixing age-old classics with delicious ingredients for a taste that’s entirely new.
“It’ll always be exciting to eat here,” he said. We couldn’t agree more.