May 17, 2010 — -- He used to cook gourmet dishes for the rich and famous; now, Juan-Carlos Cruz is in the stir.
The former Food Network star awaits arraignment today after being arrested for allegedly trying to hire homeless men to kill his wife. Cruz was booked on solicitation to commit murder Thursday.
According to Santa Monica, Calif., Sgt. Jay Trisler, three homeless men told the city's homeless liaison officers that Cruz asked them to kill someone. They agreed to help police investigate the alleged murder-for-hire plot.
"They felt confident that they could divulge this information and be treated fairly and be listened to," Trisler told The Associated Press.
While police have notified the intended victim, they have refrained from identifying the person publicly because of the ongoing investigation. TMZ.com and other news outlets claim Cruz's target was his wife, Jennifer Campbell, his high school sweetheart.
Detectives discovered where, when and how the targeted individual was to be killed and how much money Cruz allegedly offered, Trisler told the AP.
According to TMZ.com, Cruz offered the men $1,000 to slit his target's throat. When one of the men, identified in court papers as Big Dave, said he didn't want to kill anyone in public, Cruz allegedly gave him the code to his apartment so he could strangle the intended victim.
Who Is Juan-Carlos Cruz?
Cruz, 48, is being held on $5 million bail. His current status is a stark contrast to his celebrity chef past. Born in the Dominican Republic, Cruz moved to the U.S. with his parents and two older brothers at age 3. He grew up in California where he taught himself to cook by watching Julia Child, Graham Kerr and the "Frugal Gourmet" on TV.
After graduating from the California Culinary Academy in 1993, Cruz went on to serve as the pastry sous-chef at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles, where he created confections for the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts and Jack Nicholson.
Specializing in sweets caused Cruz to balloon, and in 2000, at 240 pounds, he joined the cast of Discovery Health Network's "Body Challenge" to lose weight. He lost 43 pounds in four months and dubbed himself the Calorie Commando, which became the name of his Food Network series that debuted in 2004. The network tapped him to host another series, "Weighing In," in 2005.
Both shows are now off the air. In 2006, he published "The Juan-Carlos Cruz Calorie Countdown Cookbook: A 5-Week Eating Strategy for Sustainable Weight Loss." In a 2005 interview with the Los Angeles Daily News, Cruz called himself a "fat-person survivor" and said he's constantly coming up with ways to keep weight off.
"I'm obsessed with keeping [the weight] off, because at one time in the past, I had lost all the weight and gained it back in a matter of months," he said.