Shockwaves spread through Houston's restaurant community Sunday night with the news that Ryan Roberts, the longtime general manager of Cullen's Upscale American Grille, passed away at the age of 38. His cause of death is under investigation by the Harris County Medical Examiner. (Update: On Tuesday, the Medical Examiner released its findings that Roberts's cause of death is "Intraparenchymal pontine hemorrhage due to hypertensive cardiovascular disease," a type of stroke.)
Cullen's owners Sandra and Kevin Munz provided the following statement about Roberts's death.
It is with great sadness that we share the news of the unexpected passing of our beloved friend and colleague Ryan Roberts.
He was discovered in his home on Sunday and appears to have passed away in his sleep.
As additional details regarding his final arrangements become available, we will ask your support in communicating that information to friends and professional associates.
On behalf of Ryan’s family, we thank those who have reached out with their condolences and offers of support, but ask you to respect their privacy as they deal with this tragedy.
We cannot find words to properly express our grief over the loss of our friend who, in addition to his warmth and spirit, was a driving force in our shared vision for excellence.
We offer our prayers for his family."
Kevin and Sandra Munz
Roberts took experiences from his time in the Pappas organization and used them to develop Cullen's into a powerhouse dining destination in Clear Lake. In particular, the restaurant became a popular venue for celebrations of all kinds.
Roberts's well-known passion for whiskey and bourbon shaped Cullen's into having one of the most complete spirits list in the state; a status it confirmed when it hosted a dinner that featured an ultra-rare, $38,000 bottle of Balvenie 50. Despite its distance from the Loop, Roberts was a frequent, jovial presence at industry events.
"So sad to hear about Ryan," local sommelier Vanessa Treviño Boyd writes in a text message. "He was the kindest guy in the business. A total sweetheart." Similar tributes began to appear from a number of industry figures on Facebook. He will be missed.