(NBC NEWS)—Celebrity chef and New York City restaurateur Carl Ruiz has died at 44, his restaurant confirmed Sunday.
A spokeswoman with Ruiz’s restaurant, La Cubana, declined to comment on his cause of death, but in an Instagram post, the restaurant described it as “sudden.”
“No words can fully express our sadness at the sudden loss of our dear friend and brother,” the post said.
Ruiz regularly appeared on the Food Network as a chef and judge, and he opened La Cubana earlier this year in New York City’s Meatpacking District, according to the restaurant.
Tributes poured out for Ruiz on Sunday, with one friend and colleague, Alex Guarnaschelli recalling him as “fatherly, comforting, wise, reckless, brilliant, wickedly funny & unique all in 1.”
“My life will be lonelier without him,” she wrote on Twitter. “Love you Carl. I’ll make sure no one puts pineapple on pizza best I can without you here.”
Guy Fieri, of the Food Network’s “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives,” said he was “heartbroken” over Ruiz’s death.
“I have no words to describe what a great friend he was to me and my family,” he said. “His ability to make me laugh and smile under any circumstances was only outshined by his talent as a chef.”
Matt Farah, an automotive journalist and host of The Smoking Tire, recalled his friend as “an absolute legend.”
“His food, his spirit, knowledge, insights, street smarts, humor and delivery were all legendary,” Farah tweeted. “The world is darker without him.”