When your cookbook co-author is accused of attempted murder for hire


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Thursday should be Amy Reiley’s day. She’ll be the star of a private party in Los Angeles Thursday night for her new book, “The Love Diet,” which arrives Tuesday with its twist on weight loss. These recipes aim for that sweet spot where health, decadence and amore overlap: Like, chocolate truffles made with fat-free half-and-half instead of full-fat cream.

But book publicity has taken an unexpected turn: Many of the questions are less about eating to boost your libido and more about Reiley’s co-author – Juan-Carlos Cruz of Santa Monica, the former Food Network TV chef (“Calorie Commando”) currently in custody for allegedly trying to hire homeless men to strangle his wife. At one point, law enforcement officials said they were looking into reports that fertility problems were to behind the plot.


Not exactly romantic stuff.

According to Reiley, the controversy led to the spiking of a Redbook magazine story about her recipes, as she details in this blog posting.

Reiley said she had not personally spoken to Cruz since his arrest last month, although she is planning on visiting him in jail this week. His bail is set at $5 million and he has pleaded not guilty. Reiley said that she was shocked by the allegations, as she has been friends with Cruz and his wife, Jennifer Campbell, for years and never saw any indication of trouble.

“I’m still processing it because I still can’t believe it, it’s so incredibly shocking,” she said of the arrest. “I believe there is more to this story than what we’ve heard.”

She said Cruz and Campbell always seemed extremely close, and that “he’s always doing lovely things for her, and she’s always doing lovely things for him.” For example, when Reiley and Cruz were working on recipe testing a few months ago, Cruz was preoccupied because his wife wasn’t feeling well. He set an alarm on his phone so it would go off every two hours – so that he could call and check in on her regularly, to see if she needed anything and to remind her to take her medication.

“They just seemed to work so well together,” she said.

Reiley thought about delaying the book, which is published by her own fledgling publishing start-up – you can go to her website, Life of Reiley, as long as you don’t mind some mildly racy, hand-drawn images of a topless woman. She is also the publisher of “Kiss My Bundt,” the cookbook written by baker Chrysta Wilson of Kiss My Bundt Bakery in Los Angeles.

Reiley said there were some who suggested that perhaps she’d be better off by removing Cruz’s name from the book. She declined to do that.


“I decided in the end to let the book come out on schedule, as written,” she said. “I felt very strongly that I didn’t want to take his name off the book. It truly is a collaboration, and his knowledge and his contributions help make the book.”

“Delaying it would just kill all of our momentum,” she said. “It’s just a great, little easy cookbook. Obviously I have to hope the attention won’t shed a bad light on the book.”

--Rene Lynch