One of the more twisted stories in fooddom came to a near-close today when Juan-Carlos Cruz, the former Calorie Commando host on the Food Network, pleaded no contest to the charge that he solicited three homeless men at the Santa Monica Promenade to rub out his wife, Jennifer Campbell.
Sentencing is scheduled for December 13, but according to that bastion of judicial information, TMZ, Cruz has made a deal with prosecutors, who recommend he serve 9 years (less time served) in prison. As he left the courtroom today, TMZ reports, Cruz blew Campbell a kiss, and both were smiling. Cruz was previously to have said that he put a hit out on Campbell because his attorney wife had already put a hit out on him - it was only fair play.
TMZ is not yet reporting the sale of Cruz and Campbell's story to Brangelina Productions, but we expect it any moment. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, in case you have forgotten, a few of the wacky details that have emerged in this strange tale of love gone wrong: Prior to getting into the murder business, Cruz, 48, was pastry chef turned TV host. After graduating from the California Culinary Academy, he worked as pastry sous chef at the Bel Air Hotel, where he created pastry for such celebrities as Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Jack Nicholson, Julia Roberts, Jim Carrey and Russell Crowe.
In 2001, he created a website, pastrydude.com, which no longer exists. (Are you surprised?) He lost 43 pounds on the Discovery Health Channel show Discovery Health Body Challenge, and decided to switch from pastry to low-calorie cooking. In 2004, Cruz was host of the Food Network shows Calorie Commando and Weighing In. He later wrote cookbooks, including The Love Diet: Eat It Up, Take It Off, Get It On With Simple Recipes (Cocktails, Too) For a Healthy, Happy, Sexy You, co-written with Amy Reiley.
Apparently, Cruz fell off his own love diet, because in May of this year, he approached a couple of homeless guys in Santa Monica, told them he needed someone to kill a woman on the cheap -- $1000. One of the men told a friend, and he became part of the kill team: Big Dave, Little Dave and Shane. At first, Cruz wanted them to jump his wife as she got out of the car and slit her throat. He provided a box cutter, a disposable cell phone, gloves, a pocket watch and half of the money - literally, ten thousand-dollar bills torn in half. (He provided a photo of the other half.) Jennifer Campbell looked to be dead meat, but when Big Dave was arrested on a loitering charge, he copped the murder plot to the cops. And when next Cruz met with the homeless assassins, Big Dave was wired, the cops were videotaping it, and Juan-Carlos Cruz was getting measured for an orange jump suit.
Cruz's demo reel, which remains up on YouTube, features a brief scene with his wife. The Food Network website still features many recipes courtesy of Cruz, including one for something we imagine Cruz will be thinking quite a lot about over the next nine years - chocolate chip cookies. Turn the page for the recipe.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
From: Juan-Carlos Cruz's Calorie Commando, "Episode: Noodle Bake and Cookies."
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons light butter
4 ounces yogurt cheese, recipe follows
3/4 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)
1 recipe Sugar Substitute Brown Sugar, recipe follows
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Yield: about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups
1 pint plain yogurt
1. Line a strainer with cheesecloth. Place the strainer over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Discard the liquid in the bowl.
Sugar Substitute Brown Sugar:
1/4 cup sugar free maple syrup
1 cup sugar substitute (recommended: Splenda)
1. Mix together the syrup and sugar substitute. Stir until sugar substitute is dissolved.
Cookies and assembly:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and set aside. Alternatively, you can do this in 2 batches.
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2. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt together and set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter, yogurt cheese, and sugar substitutes until smooth. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the eggs, egg whites, and vanilla and blend until incorporated. With mixer still on low speed, add flour mixture and blend until incorporated.
4. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop batter, in 1 tablespoon-size balls, onto the prepared sheet pan, about 2 inches apart. Flatten cookies a little with the back of a fork.
5. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Let cool on a metal rack.