Carl Ruiz, a restaurateur and frequent Food Network show guest who passed away in September, died of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease.
On Wednesday, Bruce Goldfarb, assistant to the Maryland Department of Health's chief medical examiner, confirmed to TODAY that the celebrity chef died in his sleep last month after succumbing to the disease, which occurs when fats, cholesterol and other substances build up and harden in the arteries and then restrict blood flow. Ruiz, who lived in the New York City area, was visiting friends in Maryland when he passed.
Ruiz, who was 44 when he died, was a popular guest judge on many Food Network cooking competition programs, including Guy Fieri's "Guy's Grocery Games" and "Guy's Ranch Kitchen." He got his first big break in front of the camera in 2013 when his deli, Marie's Italian Specialties located in New Jersey, was featured on Fieri's hit show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
He also owned the New York restaurant La Cubana and hosted a popular YouTube series, "Omg Carl's Food Show."
Several Food Network stars, including Fieri, took to Twitter with heartfelt tributes after learning of Ruiz's passing last month.
“I’m heartbroken that my friend chef Carl Ruiz is gone,” Fieri wrote next to a photo of Ruiz. “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 a separate tweet, Fieri added, "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."
"This man was somehow fatherly, comforting, wise, reckless, brilliant, wickedly funny & unique all in 1," New York-based restaurant owner and "Chopped" judge Alex Guarnaschelli wrote of Ruiz. "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."
Food critic and "Iron Chef America" judge Troy Johnson wrote, "He made people laugh who'd forgotten how to laugh. He set rooms on fire. He was the match and the kerosene. ... This one gutted me. Goodnight, @carlruiz."
Ruiz’s restaurant La Cubana had just opened in June. The restaurant said on Instagram that it will be establishing The Carl Ruiz Scholarship Foundation to help provide financial support aspiring chefs.