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Carl Albert Ruiz (April 4, 1975 – September 21, 2019), also known as Carl "The Cuban" Ruiz, was an American restaurant owner and celebrity chef, best known as a judge on various US cooking competition television series on Food Network, such as Guy's Grocery Games.

Carl Ruiz
Born(1975-04-04)April 4, 1975
DiedSeptember 21, 2019(2019-09-21) (aged 44)
Bel Air North, Maryland, Harford County, U.S.
EducationInstitute of Culinary Education
OccupationChef, restaurant owner, television personality
Years active2002–2019
EmployerFood Network
Spouse(s)Marie Riccio (divorced)

Early lifeEdit

Ruiz was born on April 4, 1975, in Passaic, New Jersey, where he attended the Collegiate School. He was a classically-trained chef who graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education, in New York City.[1]


Ruiz worked as a sous chef at Dish, a restaurant in Clifton, New Jersey, before being hired as executive chef at Sabor in North Bergen, New Jersey circa 2002.[2] In July 2002, he was hired by the new owner of Stephen's Cafe of North Bergen as a consulting chef for a relaunch of the operation.[3] Ruiz relocated to New York City as the first decade of the 21st century came to a close, working as an executive chef at Son Cubano, a short-lived Cuban restaurant on West 27th Street in Manhattan.[4] The 80-seat restaurant featured live Cuban music and a night club atmosphere.[4]

By 2011, Ruiz was executive chef at Brick Oven in Morristown, New Jersey.[5] Together with his then wife, Marie Riccio, on October 10, 2011,[6] Ruiz opened an Italian deli and cafe, Marie's Italian Specialties, in the Hickory Square Mall in Chatham Township, New Jersey.[7] This cafe was memorably referred to by one food reviewer 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."[7]

It was through this restaurant, and its distinctive food, that Ruiz first made the acquaintance of celebrity chef Guy Fieri.[8] Fieri filmed an episode of his popular Food Network television show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives featuring Marie's Italian Specialties in October 2012, with an initial air date of January 21, 2013.[6] Fieri would ultimately feature the restaurant twice on the show,[8] boosting the popularity of the nine table deli as well as Ruiz's professional profile.[6] Ruiz was later hired to be a judge on other shows starring Fieri, including Guy's Grocery Games and Guy's Ranch Kitchen.[8]

Ruiz and Riccio subsequently divorced, with Riccio retaining Marie's Italian Specialties following the split.[9] In June 2019, Ruiz opened a new restaurant specializing in authentic Cuban fare, called La Cubana, in the Meatpacking District of New York City.[10] Ruiz held the position of Executive Chef at the new eatery.[10] Through connection to his high-profile friend Fieri, Ruiz would become a frequent guest on the Sirius XM radio show Opie and Anthony and its successor, The Opie Radio Show, along with Sherrod Small and Vic Henley.[11] Following that show's cancellation, Ruiz would continue to be a regular on the Opie Radio podcast until the time of his death.

Ruiz was well-known as a judge on Guy's Grocery Games, and he also won the most as a competitor raising money as part of various tournaments.

Death and legacyEdit

Ruiz died on September 21, 2019, aged 44, from atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease in his sleep. The condition results in the hardening of arteries, a buildup of cholesterol and fat that forms plaque within artery walls and restricts blood flow.[1] He was visiting friends in Bel Air, Maryland when it occurred.[12] Following his death, La Cubana issued a statement to the press announcing the establishment of the Carl Ruiz Scholarship Foundation, dedicated to the financial support of aspiring chefs attending culinary school.[13]

The September 25, 2019 episode of Guy's Grocery Games, "Ghosts of GGG Past". He won the Guy’s Grocery Games Championship. [14]


  1. ^ a b Mariel Padilla, "Carl Ruiz, Celebrity Chef and Restaurateur, Dies at 44,", The New York Times, September 22, 2019.
  2. ^ Rene A. Mack, "At Sabor in North Bergen," Hackensack Record, June 14, 2002; p. Restaurants-40.
  3. ^ Bev Mortenson, "A La Carte," Hackensack Record, July 26, 2002; p. Restaurants-34.
  4. ^ a b "Son Cubano (Closed)," Time Out New York, February 24, 2010.
  5. ^ Chris Jordan and Amanda Oglesby, "Peanut Butter Confections at Morristown Bakery," Morristown Daily Record, March 9, 2011, p. 12.
  6. ^ a b c Marcia Worth, "Chef Guy Fieri Features Local Favorite Deli," Patch [South Orange, NJ], January 10, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Jamie Duffy, "Husband-and-Wife Team Make Marie's Work," Morristown Daily Record, January 18, 2012; p. 4.
  8. ^ a b c Connie Heller, Food Network's Carl Ruiz Dead at 44: Guy Fieri and More Stars Pay Tribute "Food Network's Carl Ruiz Dead at 44", E! News, September 22, 2019.
  9. ^ Rachelle Bergstein, "Floridians Outraged After Chef Claims New Jersey Has the Best Cuban Sandwich," New York Post, December 28, 2018.
  10. ^ a b Li Cohen, "Food Network Chef Carl Ruiz Remembered After "Sudden" Death," CBS News, September 22, 2019.
  11. ^ "Confirmed: Opie Fired From SiriusXM, "Sherrod Small Gives Clues About Future Plans", The Interrobang, July 6, 2017.
  12. ^ Haring, Bruce (September 22, 2019). "Food Network's Carl Ruiz Dead at 44: Guy Fieri and More Stars Pay Tribute".
  13. ^ Pasquini, Maria (September 22, 2019). "Guy Fieri 'Heartbroken' Over Food Network Star Carl Ruiz's Death".
  14. ^ "Vince Russo's The Brand on Apple Podcasts". Apple Podcasts.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit