Celebrate the Legacy of Ray’s Co-owner Elizabeth Gingrich Sept. 25

Please join us at Ray’s Café on Tuesday, September 25 as we celebrate the legacy and contributions of our beloved co-owner Elizabeth Gingrich who recently passed.

We will be offering a special a la carte menu of her favorite Ray’s dishes, dessert and cocktail from 11:30am to 9pm in the Cafe.

All proceeds from Elizabeth’s menu on this date will be donated to MultiCare Hospice of Tacoma where she was president of the board for five years and instrumental in establishing the program. We can also accept monetary donations to the hospice in the form of checks. Ray’s will match 100% of donations from the day!

Ray’s alumni will receive 10% off their Cafe bill that day (discount excludes the special menu), and are encouraged to share stories about Elizabeth and bring photos of her!

Elizabeth Gingrich Menu
Dungeness Crab Salad
King Salmon
Mixed Nut Tart
Bombay Sapphire Martini

Reservations strongly recommended. Contact the Cafe at 206.789.3770 or online to reserve today.

Fresh Fish Series: Copper River Salmon Is Here!

The Mighty Copper River
The Mighty Copper River

Copper River Salmon is here!

Not so fast. We’ll be waiting on edge all day today to find out if the salmon are out there. Yesterday, the fishing fleets headed a couple of hours away from Cordova, AK to the mouth of the Copper River delta.  Most scouted the area yesterday looking for the best spots to set nets. Then, 7am this morning, Alaska Fish and Game gave the call. Fishing is on!

They’ll have 12 hours to fish. Some will offload fish at nearby tender boats, but most will race back to Cordava to offload their catch where they’ll receive more money for the catch.

Variables to make a successful fishing trip are countless. Ocean swells, tides, air temperatures, water temperatures, wind, rain, river flow, sediment, delta sandbars, (they change all of the time), number of boats fishing. It keeps going. Not an easy way of life.

How about some bullet points?

  • The Copper River is 290 miles long. It’s the tenth largest in the United States.
  • The ruggedness of the river, with its vast gorges and steep falling grade, make it necessary for the salmon to become fat and strong in order to swim upstream and spawn. Hence why they are so delicious.
  • It’s known for its miles of sprawling deltas.
  • On the sandbars, you’ll see massive groups of bald eagles, sea lions and the occasional bear waking up from the winter hibernation.
  • 1983 Ray’s partnered with Jon Rowley and became the first restaurant in the Pacific NW to serve Copper River Salmon. We’ve served Copper River salmon ever since. (I was 2 years old then).

Ray’s has again partnered with Ocean Beauty Seafoods for Copper River season. They’ll make sure we have a few king salmon to prepare your dinner Friday evening. We have to be patient though… It’s a tight timeline for a long journey.  Fish is caught, sent to processing, trucked to the small Cordava airport, loaded on to an Alaska Airlines plane to Anchorage then down to SeaTac. From there they go to Ocean Beauty’s facility in Seattle, and finally to Ray’s Boathouse. All in a matter of about 30 hours!

Along with Ocean Beauty, we have a new partner this year, Michael and Nelly Hand. Drifters Fish is their company name. They will be fishing and giving us updates direct from the boat! Hopefully we’ll be able to serve king salmon caught by them Saturday evening. So for that, we wish the Hand’s a safe and prosperous day on the ocean.

I’m really excited this year to share as much info as I can with you. Keep checking in with social media. And make your reservations. This fish goes fast!

Stephen Hauch, Executive Sous Chef

Ray’s at the Copper River

Cordova Harbor
Ray’s team in the background of Cordova Harbor, Alaska.

Our team had the exciting opportunity to visit the Copper River in Cordova, Alaska this May for the start of the Copper River salmon fishing season! Our GM Douglas Zellers, one of our owners and Ray’s Founding Partner Russ Wohlers, Executive Chef Paul Duncan and Executive Sous Chef Steve Hauch spent a week delving into the ins and outs of the fishing industry, talking with multi-generational Cordova fishermen and exploring the gorgeous local scenery.

A big thank you to Ocean Beauty Seafoods who were wonderful hosts to our team! They enjoyed a flyover of the Copper River and a tour of their processing facility.

Here are some highlights and insights from Alaska by our team, and a short video by our Executive Sous Chef Steve Hauch of the first Copper River catch!

Protect Your Environment: “You’re not just buying fish, you’re buying the life of a fisherman – Bill Webber Jr., Fisherman. ” Being immersed in a community that is 99.9% dependent on fishing is an eye opener. These fisherman are dependent on catching enough fish to pay their mortgage or buy clothes for their children. There was a real sense of anxiety as 500+ boats left the harbor, an air of anticipation as the reports trickled back in, and disappointment as they unloaded what was a very small catch even for an opener. However, the captains we spoke with were optimistic and in it for the long haul. They know the fish will hit, they just don’t know when. But the immediate impact of not catching fish is real.

Fresh and Safe Fish:  Watching the entire process from an aerial flight over the fleet on the morning of the first opener, to watching the fish arrive via video at Rays in less than 18 hours was impressive.  When we say we have fresh fish – we really have fresh fish.  The Ocean Beauty supply chain was very well managed. The facilities and boats were all very clean and organized. The crews were all very friendly.  It is a symbiotic relationship, we need each other to perform well. After all, what is Copper River Salmon without the story or the restaurant guests who are willing to pay for quality fresh fish.

Time Tested yet Looking Forward:  Fishing in some fashion is as old as perhaps man himself.  Some boats, captains, and crew certainly looked that part. However, without leaving that salty realm, other captains are deeply immersed in innovation. On one of his walks Russ made conversation with a gentleman named Bill Webber Sr. who was mending his nets in a parking lot. Low and behold he was the fisherman that worked with Jon Rowley back in the late 70’s and he caught and transported the Copper River Salmon to Rays for the ‘big show and tell’ in the early 80’s.  As big as that state is, it still remains a close knit small community.

Bill Sr. Suggested we visit his sons boat “Paradigm Shift” and hear about the advances he is making in how the fish are cared for until they are delivered to your door. Bill Jr. gave us a short tour of his boat and explained some of the things that he is doing that should change the industry over time as people adopt them.  Bill Jr. is an independent fisherman who sells his own catch via his website.

He told a tale that sounds like one you may read in a book: He is the son of a man who has lived and fished in Cordova for 60 years, he has been fishing since he could see over the rail, his wife does the books, he builds boats and fishing gear. But Bill Jr. is taking it forward. He has bar code tags for each fish he catches that links that fish through the supply chain and directly connects it to his on board inventory management spreadsheets. He has innovated an intravenous pressure bleeding system that removes all blood from the fish in about 20 seconds thus dramatically stalling the onset of deterioration, and he is working with transportation companies to get the product to the destination faster.

If you read his website you will notice phrases like lead by examplechange the industry, and total quality.  This is similar to the shift that Bruce Gore created in the late 70’s when he pioneered frozen at sea. Once we had that product we never looked at frozen fish the same again, and it eventually became standard.  We can see the same thing happening with Bill Webber Jr.’s operation.