Ex-Food Network Chef Juan Carlos Cruz’s Murder-for-Hire Plot Exposed

Culinary star to criminal suspect: how Juan Carlos Cruz attempted to hire an unhoused man to kill his wife

Megan Ashley


Juan Carlos Cruz (Source)

In early May 2010, a man walked up to a couple of unhoused men in Santa Monica, California. He would offer the men a thousand dollars to split if they would kill someone for him.

One of the unhoused men, who went by ‘Big Dave,’ said he was uncomfortable killing in public; the man would offer to return later and show him how to get into his house. After, Big Dave went to their police liaison officer and told them what the man had planned. Police would plan a sting, and Big Dave would agree to wear a wire for the event.

They would discover that the man was Juan Carlos Cruz, a Food Network celebrity chef with the show “Calorie Commando.”

Juan Carlos Cruz moved to the United States with his family from the Dominican Republic when he was three years old. He reported being fascinated with cooking his whole life. He went to culinary school in California with a focus on pastry. After graduating, he got a job as the sous pastry chef at the Hotel Bel-Air. He made pastries for famous stars like Oprah, Jack Nicholson, and Julia Roberts before getting into TV.

He was married to his high school sweetheart, Jennifer Cambell.

Police would quickly discover that it was his ‘beloved wife’ Jennifer, who had been the intended target of the hit.

On May 12, Cruz would take Big Dave to his apartment and show him how to get in undetected. He gave him the code to the apartment. He said he should either slit her throat or strangle her so there would not be a mess for the relatively low sum of $1000. But he gave the men strict instructions not to harm his dogs. He even offered to provide the man with dog treats so that their dogs would not alert anyone when he entered the apartment.

Once law enforcement had what they needed, they arrested Cruz. He was charged with attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder. He would plead not guilty.

But by October 2010, he pleaded no contest to the solicitation to commit murder, and the prosecution dropped the…