Netflix series shows ‘Vegan Queen’ who fled with $2m and was caught with Domino’s pizza

Celebrities worshipped her and high-quality diners adored her meals… however “Vegan Queen” Sarma Melngailis threw all of it away with a barking-mad bid to make her pooch immortal.

Melngailis was the brains and the wonder behind swanky New York restaurant Pure Food and Wine.

The star-studded guestbook learn like an A-listers Who’s Who – Woody Harrelson, Stevie Wonder, Darryl Hannah, Anne Hathaway, Owen Wilson… even ex-US President Bill Clinton. But Melngailis was to be undone by love. And gullibility.

She turned the Vegan Fugitive after stealing from the enterprise to bankroll her husband’s crackpot declare that he may make her pitbull Leon dwell for ever.

They went on the run for 10 months however had been caught in a Tennessee motel after ordering a Domino’s tacky pizza – with a aspect of hen wings.

The stranger-than-fiction saga is unpicked in new Netflix collection Bad Vegan, beginning on Monday. From the makers of hit present Tiger King, it charts how Ivy League educated Melngailis’ world imploded.

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Actor Woody Harrelson, Pure Food and Wine chef Sarma Melngailis, Pure Food and Wine chef Matthew Kenney and actor Jason Lewis


Getty Images)

The story is from her viewpoint, with claims Anthony Strangis managed her life.

His legal professional denied all of her accusations in court docket.

Melngailis began draining funds when Strangis promised he may develop her meals empire and assure pet Leon eternity.

Between them, they had been accused of taking $2million from the corporate and workers.

An indictment alleged that, in 12 months, Strangis spent greater than $1million at casinos, withdrew a whole lot of 1000’s of {dollars}, spent $80,000 on watches and one other $70,000 on journeys to Europe.

Melngailis’s buddy , the novelist Porochista Khakpour, mentioned all of it got here all the way down to the canine. “Melngailis lost her mind,” she mentioned. “She actually believed that her canine would dwell for ever.

Anthony Strangis in Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives



Melngailis gained consideration when she appeared on the duvet of a cookbook she wrote with then-boyfriend, chef Matthew Kenney, in 2005.

Pure Food and Wine restaurant had opened a 12 months earlier in Manhattan.

Cocktails included the Master Cleanse Tini, an natural saké served in a martini glass rimmed with crystal date sugar.

Dishes had been made out of a spread of cultured nut cheeses. It had greater than 200 prospects an evening and annual income of $500,000.

They typically posed for pics with stars – one exhibiting them with Harrelson and Sex and the City’s Jason Lewis.

Pure is rumoured to have impressed the SATC episode the place Jason’s character Smith Jerrod meets Samantha Jones on the restaurant he’s working at, Raw.

Melngailis, now 49, and Kenney, 57, cut up each personally and professionally a 12 months later. She stored the restaurant and Kenney went on to launch his personal California-based life-style firm, Matthew Kenney Cuisine, which opened its first London restaurant final 12 months.

The Vegan queen would be the focus of a brand new documentary on Netflix



Meanwhile Melngailis and Pure Food and Wine vowed to spearhead a raw-vegan motion, opening juice bars and promoting branded snacks. But the pressure started to indicate.

She wrote on her weblog in 2007: “These people would all probably choke on their flax crackers if they knew that not only am I walking around often feeling entirely spent, weary and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but that I’m also carrying a few hundred thousand dollars of personal debt, I’m full of burning rage to build this empire with a residual and occasionally reappearing destructive closet eating disorder.”

Following one other break-up, Melngailis adopted Leon from a rescue centre in Brooklyn.

Friends say she threw herself into work. But by 2011, she was able to date once more and met Strangis after he wooed her on-line underneath his actual title, Shane Fox.

In the four-part Netflix documentary, it’s claimed he promised huge rewards if she funnelled her restaurant’s funds to him.

In court docket, Strangis refuted the claims and mentioned his spouse was a prepared participant. He seems to have disappeared from the general public eye for the reason that scandal. Instructions Strangis had served time for grand theft and impersonating a policeman, each in 2005.

Sarma Melngailis and Daryl Hannah at Pure Food and Wine


Patrick McMullan through Getty Images)

According to Melngailis’s authorized workforce, Strangis instructed her Leon had been his canine in a earlier life and the three of them had all been dwelling collectively for a thousand years.

Melngailis herself mentioned: “Among the things I’d be granted, Leon would also be immortal and safe to be by my side for eternity.”

In a taped telephone name, obtained by Netflix, Melngailis is heard saying: “So I’m just supposed to do whatever you say and listen to your instructions?”

Strangis, who was introduced on board as a supervisor on the restaurant in 2013, replied: “You signed on to this. You told me you wanted happily ever after. If I tell you to take all your money out of the bank and light it on fire, do it.”

By 2015, Pure Food and Wine had collapsed. Melngailis transferred greater than $1.6million from the enterprise to her private account and workers had walked out over alleged unpaid wages.

After happening the run, Melngailis and Strangis had been finally discovered hiding at a Tennessee motel. They had been caught after ordering the pizza underneath his actual title, Fox.

In 2017 they had been charged with 24 counts associated to fraud and unpaid taxes and wages. Melngailis pleaded responsible to stealing greater than $200,000 from an investor and scheming to defraud, in addition to felony tax fraud fees.

She served three months in New York’s infamous Rikers Island jail and was ordered to repay $1.5million in restitution funds.

Strangis pleaded responsible to 4 counts of grand larceny and was jailed for a 12 months, with 5 years on probation – and ordered to repay $840,000.

In court docket, his state-appointed legal professional, Samuel Karliner, denied claims that Strangis was a playing addict who used cult-like strategies to manage his spouse, together with gaslighting, sleep deprivation and intercourse humiliation.

Speaking to the New York Post from jail, the place she nonetheless tried to keep up her vegan eating regimen, Melngailis mentioned: “It’s the worst nightmare. If I had terminal cancer, it would be better than this, because at least then I did not cause it. I love my workers. When I come out, I will find something to do and pay it back.”

Melngailis nonetheless hopes to revive her restaurant enterprise. She now lives in New York’s Harlem neighbourhood. With pitbull Leon, in fact.

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