Gerson "Ray" Ramos, who once made food for the stars, now owns restaurant in Lenoir

Dec. 24, 2013 @ 08:26 AM

Six days a week, Gerson “Ray” Ramos gets up and gets breakfast going at Crossroads Café in Lenoir, a small restaurant on Harper Avenue.

These days, he serves breakfast and lunch to the people of Caldwell County, but in the not-so-distant past, he was cooking for the stars.

Ramos fell into restaurant work after coming to New York from El Salvador in the 1970s, eventually working at a variety of restaurants there and later opening his own.

For a few years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he worked as a sous chef at the Rainbow Room, the famed fine-dining restaurant on the 65th floor of the GE building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (the same building where the NBC studios are housed). It closed in 2009, but the Rainbow Room is slated to reopen in 2014 with a new executive chef.

In the '80s and '90s, though, the Rainbow Room was booming, and Ramos prepared meals for everyone from Phil Collins to the Rolling Stones. (Mick Jagger, Ramos said Thursday, was “like this,” holding up a finger to symbolize Jagger’s skeletal frame.)

Often, celebrities wanted to know “who was cooking the food,” and they’d come back to say hello to the staff – giving Ramos, a classic-rock fan, a chance to meet many of his heroes.

Ramos eventually left to open his own restaurant and, 11 years later, came to Lenoir – where his wife’s family lived – to open another.

Crossroads Restaurant serves mostly Southern food – such as country-style steak, potatoes, sweet tea – which is not something Ramos grew up eating but, instead, something he taught himself to cook.

Running the restaurant (alongside his wife, daughter and two other employees) is a constant job, Ramos said. Crossroads is open six days a week, but he works seven, often spending 70 or more hours of his week at the restaurant.

Ramos hopes soon to open the restaurant in the evenings, expanding beyond its current offerings of breakfast and lunch.

Ramos still has a stack of menus from his time at the Rainbow Room, and he liked cooking there, he said.  

But he has a host of regulars at Crossroads, and he likes cooking for them, too.

“People are friendly when you’re cooking for them,” he said. “It’s like you’re family.”