Joe Crea, who spent nearly 20 years critiquing Northeast Ohio's restaurant scene, has died following a battle with cancer at the age of 68. and The Plain Dealer, where Crea wrote until 2017, announced his death Friday afternoon. He is survived by his wife Gretchen and son Spencer.

Crea graduated from Midpark High School in Middleburg Heights in 1968 before working in kitchens around Cleveland, Boston, and Baltimore. Following stints at The Orange County Register in California and The Toledo Blade, he joined The Plain Dealer in 1998. He cited Julia Child as one of his influences.

Crea would spend the next two decades covering the area's culinary offerings. Never afraid to share his honest opinions, he dedicated an entire column in 2013 to what goes into his writings, saying, "The big things are obvious; you have to be watching carefully for the more subtle things":

"Much as it might seem fun to play the role of Anton Ego, the imperious restaurant critic in the wonderful animated film "Ratatouille" (and much as some readers might enjoy witnessing a wag eviscerate others), to my thinking criticism isn't blood sport. It's a show of respect, thoughtful and serious, all 'round."

Following his cancer diagnosis, Crea left the paper in 2017 but vowed to remain active in his writings. He did just that when he moved on to Crain's Cleveland Business, publishing his last piece on Jan. 20 of this year.

Crea also did some work for WKYC, including reviewing Cleveland's Alley Cat Oyster Bar for us last year in what turned out to be one of his final reviews. You can watch it in the player above.