What You Never Knew About Food Network Star Carl Ruiz

Are you out there living your best life? Because that's what the late Food Network star Carl Ruiz would want you to be doing. Ruiz, a popular fixture on the Food Network and celebrated chef of New York City's La Cubana restaurant, died in his sleep on September 21, 2019 at 44 years old, per The "Today" Show. He lived his life according to the hashtag he popularized, #Ruizing, which simply means you're living the best life you can.

Ruiz appeared on Guy Fieri's popular show "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" twice, according to Showbiz Cheat Sheet. This led to an increased presence on the Food Network as a judge on Fieri's cooking competition shows "Guy's Grocery Games" and "Guy's Ranch Kitchen." Ruiz also hosted a YouTube series called "OMG Carl's Food Show," where he reviews spots like Applebee's and In-N-Out.

Let's take a look at the life of Carl Ruiz — and a few things you never knew about him.

Carl Ruiz was a classically trained chef

Carl Ruiz was inspired to become a chef from his Cuban mother and grandmother, his brother George told The New York Times. Ruiz was born in 1975 in Passaic, New Jersey to a Colombian father and Cuban mother. He graduated from New York City's Institute of Culinary Education.

Ruiz was a chef at multiple New Jersey restaurants, including Dish, Sabor, and Cuban Pete's, according to his obituary on NorthJersey.com. While he also worked as a chef in renowned restaurants in Manhattan, he and his then-wife Marie Riccio opened Marie's Italian Specialties in Chatham, New Jersey. They were featured in the local Morristown newspaper with the headline, "Husband-and-wife team make Marie's work." In the article, the reviewer referred to Marie's Italian Specialties as "the type of deli you might have visited as a child when visiting your grandmother's house — if your grandmother lived in Hoboken or Jersey City in the 1950s."

Guy Fieri introduced Carl Ruiz to both Food Network and the world

Celebrity chef and Food Network star Guy Fieri introduced Carl Ruiz to the world on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" when featuring his and ex-wife Marie's restaurant, Marie's Italian Specalities, on the show. Ruiz and Riccio opened the spot in October 2011. The following month, Fieri dropped in and they were slammed, so he jumped behind the counter and started making sandwiches, per Patch. Just about a year later, in October 2012, Fieri returned with his "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" crew to film an episode called "Hometown Haunts" that aired on January 21, 2013, according to a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives website. Ruiz and Fieri hit it off, which is when he was hired to be a judge on "Guy's Grocery Games" and "Guy's Ranch Kitchen." 

In June 2019, in a nod to his Cuban roots, Ruiz went on to open La Cubana in New York City's Meatpacking district.

Carl Ruiz was an expert on the Cuban sandwich

Carl Ruiz wasn't just an expert on the Cuban sandwich, he was likely the world's preeminent expert on it, having tried over 500 different iterations of the classic sandwich, per NJ.com. In fact, he even angered some Cubans in Florida when he proclaimed that the best Cuban sandwiches could be found at La Pola, a restaurant in New Jersey, according to NorthJersey.com. Of all the 500 Cuban sandwiches Ruiz ate, the one at the old-school diner La Pola was his favorite, but Tampa, Florida didn't take well to being told the best Cuban sandwich is in New Jersey. In fact, CL Tampa posted an article an article that read: "Tampa, St. Petersburg have something to say about the country's best Cuban: The sandwich ain't found in Jersey, OK?”

However, according to Ruiz, La Pola's sandwich is superior because it uses hand sliced ham and pork. Ruiz said that too often, Cuban sandwiches used pulled pork and too much mustard and pickles. The Cuban sandwich, Ruiz said, "wasn't designed for Cubans. It was designed for tourists."

Carl Ruiz was happy to share his recipes with anyone who asked... or so he claimed

In January 2017, Carl Ruiz took to Twitter to declare, "I'll give anybody my recipes. The difference between me and them is that I can make new ones."

Fans immediately started requesting recipes. One Twitter user wrote, "Carl ... your smoked gouda soup this morning on Guy's Ranch Kitchen looks delicious. You said you share, will you please share this one? You need to do a cookbook!" Another Twitter user wrote, "I've just googled the sh*t outta your Smoked Gouda Cheese Soup recipe from Guy's Ranch Kitchen episode this AM & I'm coming up with nada. Are you being serious about sharing that recipe? If so, would you be kind enough to share? Pretty please with a big fat cherry on top?" Ruiz replied: "I created that recipe myself and I only cooked it once on the show. I'm going to have to look it up."

There's no definitive answer on whether he ever followed up with that recipe, but the episode on which he made the soup can be found here.

After Carl Ruiz's death, his Food Network friends paid tribute to him

Carl Ruiz was visiting friends near Baltimore, Maryland when he died in his sleep on September 22, 2019, at age 44, per The New York Times.

His friend Guy Fieri took to Twitter to share his grief, writing, "'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."

In another tweet, Fieri wrote, "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."

Iron chef and "Chopped" judge Alex Guarnaschelli also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Ruiz, writing, "This man was somehow fatherly, comforting, wise, reckless, brilliant, wickedly funny & unique all in 1. My life will be lonelier without him. Love you Carl. I'll make sure no one puts pineapple on pizza best I can without you here. #rip @carlruiz."

Around a month after his death it was revealed that the chef died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, a condition that causes a hardening of the arteries and restricts the flow of blood, as reported by the "Today" show.