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d celebrity chef and owner of the New York restaurant La Cubana who has died at the age of 44. His friends confirmed is death on social media on Sunday, September 22. Ruiz was found dead after apparently suffering a heart attack in his sleep, his friends say.
Ruiz was a fixture of the New York and New Jersey culinary crowd and was featured often on The Food Network and elsewhere in the media, including in The New York Times, the Cooking Channel, ESPN, Opie Radio and on his own Sirius XM Radio interview show, according to his restaurant’s website. He opened La Cubana in New York City’s Meatpacking district in June 2019 to pay tribute to his Cuban roots.
His friend, Matt Farah, wrote on Instagram that Ruiz, “passed peacefully in his sleep of a suspected heart attack at just 44 years old. I’m absolutely gutted.”
Tributes to Ruiz have poured in on social media from his friends and fans in the food and entertainment worlds.
“I’m heartbroken that my friend chef Carl Ruiz is gone. I have no words to describe what a great friend he was to me and my family. His ability to make me laugh and smile under any circumstances was only outshined by his talent as a chef,” Guy Fieri wrote on Twitter. “Over the years, I’ve met a lot of great people but a friend like Carl is one in a hundred million. Carl ‘The Cuban’ Ruiz will forever live on in my heart and in those of all who loved him.”
Ruiz’s former restaurant in New Jersey was featured by Fieri on his Food Network show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” in 2013.
Ruiz Previously Owned an Italian Restaurant in New Jersey With His Ex-Wife
Ruiz previously owned Marie’s Italian Specialities in New Jersey with his ex-wife, Marie Riccio. He worked for more than 25 years in the food and restaurant industry and was a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City.
“His frequent appearances on The Food Network — both as a competitive chef champion and celebrity judge — have cemented this Cuban chef sensation as a household name,” his website says. “Whether he is cooking up Cuban delicacies like Fufu or the classic Elena Ruz Sandwich, offering sage advice to up-and-coming chefs, or critiquing show contestants’ finer points of culinary execution, everyone is bound to walk away learning something new.”
Ruiz had only recently opened his Cuban restaurant in New York City, according to the restaurant’s website. “Paying tribute to his Cuban roots, Carl Ruiz’s latest restaurant venture, La Cubana, open June 2019 in NYC’s Meatpacking district, is a vibrant new dining destination where authentic Cuban cuisine, vintage cocktails, and live Latin music set the stage for a colorful, old-world Havana-inspired experience. In addition to serving dinner, La Cubana will also host a signature Cuban brunch each weekend,” the website says.
Friends Have Called Ruiz an ‘Absolute Legend’ Who ‘Lived Life to the Fullest’ & Was ‘Exceptionally Nice to Everyone’ & Would ‘Set Rooms on Fire’
Food critic Troy Johnson tweeted, “Good buddy of mine is gone. He made people laugh who’d forgotten how to laugh. He set rooms on fire. He was the match and the kerosene. The smartest and lovable-ist asshole I knew. This one gutted me. Goodnight, @carlruiz.”
Sirius XM producer Travis Tefft wrote on Twitter, “I don’t think I’ve known anyone who lived life to the fullest more than @carlruiz. He was hilarious and exceptionally nice to everyone. This news truly sucks.”
Matt Farah tweeted, “Chef @carlruiz was an absolute legend, in every way that word can be applied. His food, his spirit, knowledge, insights, street smarts, humor and delivery were all legendary. The world is darker without him.”
Gregg Hughes, better known as radio personality Opie, who often had Ruiz on his show, wrote a tribute on Instagram, saying, “Yeah we had great chemistry and did great shows. That was a distant second to our friendship that I cherished. When others realized it wasn’t cool to hang out with Opie anymore Carl said f*ck that. He was the one that got me off the floor and helped me get my confidence back. He taught me how to laugh again. He’s the reason I chose to start doing shows again.”
Opie added, “I never laughed harder with anyone in my life. Carl ranks right up there with the funniest people I had the pleasure to hang out with. Brilliant, quick with such a great take of the world. Oh that laugh. Once he got going it was over for everyone around him. Lots are saying he was one of a kind. Not sure people know how true this really was. He had an energy that people really wanted to be around. He made people happy and made sure they were having the best time possible. He wasn’t one of these people that would say if you need me give me a call. He was a man that sensed a friend was in trouble and just showed up.”