momlogic's Susannah Locketti: I was both shocked and saddened to learn of the alleged murder-for-hire plot surrounding former Food Network chef Juan Carlos Cruz. In September of 2004, I got my start as a guest alongside Cruz on an episode of his then-Food Network show, "Calorie Commando." I was a newbie in the business and thrilled to be a guest. Juan was also new to the lineup. We were both low-calorie chefs, as I was hosting a local show at the time called "Decadent Delites." Seeing his face in court on TMZ.com is a sharp contrast to the Cruz I got to shoot an episode with.
Juan cooked up a baked version of "fried" chicken, along with a terrific lightened-up version of potato salad. He used a bunch of veggies, including radishes -- which I loved in his recipe. He had a genuine enthusiasm for his healthy approach to cooking, and I respected it thoroughly. Juan jumped around to get his energy level up prior to shooting. We had to do a few retakes, because he kept calling me "Savannah" instead of "Susannah," which ended up a joke in between takes. Juan was even gracious enough to pose for pics, which I pulled up on my computer yesterday.
After reading about the allegations against him, it seems shocking that this once-vibrant man could be accused of such a terrible crime against his wife. Cruz struck me as a fortunate individual in the field. Not many get to grace the Food Network airwaves, yet he pulled it off. He was also the owner of a successful catering company in California. You could tell he absolutely loved what he did. Yet I find myself asking the sad question, "How could someone with so much going for them be accused of something so awful?"
Perhaps it's the naive small-town girl in me. Or perhaps you never imagine a happy-go-lucky chef capable of something so evil. Yet here he stands, accused of this crime. I'll be watching his case unfold with an air of sadness as I recount his happier days in food television. Cruz is innocent until proven guilty, yet the charges against him appear so incriminating. I view this case as such a shame, because one of the few who was so lucky to do what he'd always wanted to do will be shamed in the business as a result -- even if he is eventually acquitted. For now, I choose to reflect on his happier days teaching me how to make unfried chicken and guilt-free potato salad.