NYC's BBQ and Culinary Community Pays Tribute to Chef Carl Ruiz
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Carl Ruiz, one of the most unique and boisterous voices in the New York culinary and barbecue world, passed away in his sleep last Saturday at the age of 44.
Ruiz was best known to the public for appearing on multiple Food Network television programs, including Guy's Grocery Games, and for his forceful and funny social media presence, especially Twitter. On social media, Ruiz encouraged people to always be "#ruizing," effectively another way to say you should live your best life.
His most recent restaurant that he opened was La Cubana, which opened in Manhattan in June. Ruiz was the executive chef and he poured his soul into the joint, which has a menu of Cuban favorites and new concepts Ruiz had worked on perfecting. The last time many friends and fans saw him was at the Pig Island event in Red Hook, Brooklyn earlier this month, where he and Mario Chape served whole roasted hog.
Chape, a close friend of Ruiz for 10 years, a BBQ pitmaster under the name Big Papa Smokem, and now the executive chef at La Cubana, said this has been an exceptionally difficult week but the staff at the restaurant are trying their best to carry on Ruiz's legacy.
"His dream was to do La Cubana," Chape told me this week. "The focus right now is on the Chef's legacy and making sure we do what we have to do to pay homage to a good guy. It's a privilege to work with somebody who has that kind of passion and that kind of experience. When you're now carrying that torch, that's an opportunity to do the right thing."
Chape said that he loved Ruiz's specific sense of humor and his dedication to making customers happy.
"He didn't even crack jokes, it's just his conversation which is full of one-liners and puns," Chape said. "And he would treat you like he knew you for years, even though he just met you. That's how we treat our guests when they come in here. Everybody who comes in this door, we're making everything for them. Everything is for the customer."
A private service will be held this weekend for Ruiz's family and friends. Chape said that a public memorial will be held at La Cubana in the near future for those that weren't close to Ruiz but still want to pay their respects. Additionally, La Cubana will start a scholarship in Ruiz's name.
"We will be having a memorial and fundraiser here," Chape said. "We'll also be doing something out at Pig Beach and Guy Fieri is doing something out in California. Everybody is doing something."
Many other members of the national and local culinary community had kind words for Ruiz that they posted in tribute to social media. These include:
"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. 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."
- Guy Fieri said on Instagram
"No one made me laugh harder or more frequently than Carl. And I have never eaten with someone whose tastes and passions, whose sense of history and nostalgia, lined up as distinctly as ours. Carl’s palate was as refined as his wit. He was a polymath, with an encyclopedic knowledge across a broad range of subjects, yet he had real street smarts. But it was his sheer quickness of mind that most impressed me. ..."
- Nick Solares said on Instagram
"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."
- Alex Guarnaschelli said on Twitter
"Carl you will be missed...you made us all laugh often & then laugh some more..."
- Michael Symon said on Twitter
"He made people laugh who’d forgotten how to laugh. He set rooms on fire. He was the match and the kerosene. The smartest and lovable-ist asshole I knew. This one gutted me. Goodnight, @carlruiz."
- Troy Johnson said on Twitter
"Please take a drink with your pinky out today in honor of my friend @carlruiz who will be dearly missed. #RIP #ruizing"
- Jess Pryles said on Twitter
“Such incredibly sad news.....@carlruiz you will be missed my friend. May the heavens welcome you brother."
- Scott Conant said on Twitter
"You taught us how to enjoy every moment to the fullest and not live wondering what if! You are gone way too soon @carlruiz ! I will always be #ruizing! You will be remembered by us all! #RIP my friend. Thank you @guyfieri for bringing Carl into all of our lives."
- Jet Tila said on Twitter
"Like a lot of us with a heavy heart we had to say goodbye to Chef Carl Ruiz. The last 36 hours have been a whirlwind of emotions. What hurts the most is the fact we never got a chance to say goodbye.
We all know Carl as social media royalty. What you might not know is how good of a man he is. ..."
- Ed Randolph said on Instagram
It's clear Ruiz left quite an impression with both those he knew closely and those who knew him from afar. He will be missed. But if there's one way to honor him, Chape said people should keep #ruizing.
"The act of #ruizing is the act of enjoying your life," Chape said. "Do what you want to do and enjoy it."
EAT ALL ABOUT IT
Congrats to the Miller’s Backyard BBQ team from Saratoga Springs on winning top honors at last weekend’s Oinktoberfest event, the longest continuously running barbecue competition and festival in New York State. 43 teams from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Canada competed for cash and prizes in six categories, the Clarence Bee reports. Miller’s Backyard BBQ team also represented the region well at the recent American Royal World Series of Barbecue.
Red Hook Tavern, the recently opened restaurant from Billy Durney of Hometown Bar-B-Que fame, has been reviewed by both The New Yorker and Grub Street in the past week. The New Yorker calls the establishment, “not a comfortable neighborhood saloon so much as a strangely stiff paean to one, dripping with self-consciousness and forced nostalgia.” Grub Street was more favorable, saying that the burger is “well worth at least one trip out to Red Hook” and awarded the restaurant a score of 83 out of 100.
If you’ve been meaning to get your hands on the meatless Impossible Burger in stores, Fairway has started selling it at two Manhattan locations — the one at 74th Street on the UWS and 86th Street on the UES, according to Eater NY.
If you live on Long Island, you may need to go check out Stuey’s Smokehouse BBQ in Locust Valley, writes the Nassau Daily Voice. Stuey’s is “known for using locally-sourced herbs and spices to create its signature BBQ rub, which is used on all meats and proteins.”
Eater NY Editor-In-Chief Amanda Kludt has penned a persuasive op-ed about deleting apps by delivery services like Seamless and Grubhub due to their predatory practices of squeezing restaurants. She writes, “Delivery shouldn’t be this cheap or free. But now we as consumers are trained to think it should be, because these companies are willing to eat the losses to create a market. Restaurants that want to remain competitive feel pressured to offer delivery, no matter the commission.” She suggests simply calling restaurants directly to make sure they don’t have to pay absurd commissions.
Finally, in a weird piece of news, two Brooklyn meat wholesalers are accused of peddling purposely mislabeled beef to unsuspecting New Yorkers for years. Howard Mora, 67, and Alan Buxbaum, 65, allegedly sold “Choice”-grade beef that had been relabeled as superior “Prime”-grade meat while at A. Stein Meat Products between 2011 and 2014, the New York Post reports.
Here are the top BBQ (and related) food events coming soon to the New York metro and the Tri-State area:
October 3: There isn’t anything quite like bacon and beer, so you won’t want to miss the 2019 Jersey City Bacon and Beer Classic. Overlook the Manhattan skyline while indulging in more than 60 beers/ciders and more than 25 bacon-inspired dishes prepared by local chefs, including Jase’s BBQ, Queens Bully, Sands Jerk Hut, and Miss Holly’s Smokehouse. Buy tickets here.
October 5-6: The Infatuation’s food festival, EEEEEATSCON, is returning to Forest Hills Stadium in Queens – and this year, it’s two days. On October 5th and 6th, they’ll be bringing together top-rated NYC restaurants like Crown Shy, Tokyo Record Bar, Di An Di, and Mama’s Too. There will also be non-NYC food vendors like Hattie B’s Hot Chicken from Nashville, Sanguich De Miami, and Bite into Maine. More info here.
October 12: The New York City Wine and Food Festival’s ultimate BBQ event returns on Saturday, October 12, and this year it’s called Titans of BBQ. It will be hosted by Italian butcher Dario Cecchini, meat master Pat LaFrieda, and Food Network host Michael Symon. More than 20 chefs and pitmasters from NYC and around the country will be there serving up incredible bites. The ticket prices are steep but the food and drinks will be top-notch. More info here.
October 16: If you like rye whiskey, farm beers, spirits, breads, and pastrami, then you won’t want to miss Pastrami on Rye, Food Karma’s featured event of NY Rye Week. Food Karma is celebrating the 3rd annual Rye Week with this fun all-inclusive food and drink event in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Buy tickets here.
October 22: Technology has turned many industries upside down, including the food industry. Civic Hall in Manhattan will be hosting a Panel on the Intersection of Food & Technology to discuss the changes including supply chain and scaling up businesses. Buy tickets here.
October 24-27: The Food Film Festival returns to NYC and like it has in the past, it will give you the chance to watch films about food while actually trying the food on screen. Films are followed by an official Festival After-Party with more food, drinks and fun, served up by chefs and restaurants from New York City and beyond. Many of NYC’s top chefs will be in attendance, serving up nearly every type of cuisine. Buy tickets for all four events here.
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