By Len La Rocca
Carl Ruiz, celebrity chef and culinary spark to the founding of Traditions, died of a suspected heart attack on Saturday, Sept. 21 at the age of 44, according to his colleagues.
A New Jersey native, Ruiz became a star on The Food Network, appearing in his close friend Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”
He was beloved by his fans as well as by the people with whom he worked. Lauren Franchetti, the College’s executive chef from 2015 through 2017 reflected on how she will never forget Ruiz’s passion for food industry.
“His passion for food was so in your face apparent as soon you meet him. When we were opening Traditions on his first day back to campus, he came in like a tornado amped-up about a prepackaged chocolate cookie that I had to try…that was Carl,” Franchetti said. “The work was going to get done, but first we share cookies.”
Replacing the Rathskeller pub in March 2016, Traditions had a diverse menu built by Ruiz and inspired for a college campus, according to an original menu that Traditions’ supervisor, TJ McQuillar, gave The Signal.
New dishes such as ginger soy salmon, chili stuffed sweet potatoes and baja chipotle fish tacos graced the pages of Ruiz’s menu, which proudly honored the chef with his picture along with an excerpt about his expertise.
McQuillar recalled the passion and enthusiasm Ruiz exhibited while working with him in the kitchen, as well as his success on The Food Network.
“Carl Ruiz, he’s a nice guy to hang around with. As far as foods and dining services, he’s the type, you know, that you want to adapt yourself with to pick up different skills as far as making different dishes and recipes,” McQuillar said. “I’ve been watching this guy on Food Network… he’s been [one of the] top contenders in every competition.”
At the time of his death, Ruiz was the executive chef at the four star restaurant, La Cubana NYC. The restaurant dedicated an Instagram post to the late chef.
“No words can fully express our sadness at the sudden loss of our dear friend and brother,” the post read. “Beyond his immense culinary talent, Carl’s larger-than-life personality never failed to entertain, enlighten and uplift every person he encountered along his #Ruizing adventures.”
The chef’s own hashtag, #Ruizing, is used to describe “enjoying great drinks, food, smoking cigars and doing what you want,” according to Urban Dictionary.
“Although my heart was saddened to see him drinking so much, his #ruizing has become inspiring to tens of thousands of fans via social media, including myself,” Franhetti said. “He wants us to live life with complete … passion.”
Ruiz leaves behind his legacy as a chef, entertainer and friend through his colleagues, The Food Network and the College.
“He was brilliant and raw, yet completely approachable. His full throttle personality was captivating.” Franchetti said. “He will be missed by many for a long time.”