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‘Bad Vegan’ on Netflix: Where is Sarma Melngailis now?

Melngailis has criticized ‘Bad Vegan,’ calling the ending ‘disturbingly misleading’

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Sarma Melngailis in “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.”

Sarma Melngailis in “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.”

Netflix

The Netflix docuseries “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives” chronicles the rise and fall of Sarma Melngailis, a New York chef who shot to fame as co-founder of Pure Food and Wine before becoming involved with Anthony Strangis — a relationship that ended up derailing her business and life.

The series hit Netflix in March 2022. Since its release, Melngailis has criticized the show — particularly its portrayal of her relationship with Strangis. Here’s a look at what Melngailis has been up to following the release of “Bad Vegan.”


What is ‘Bad Vegan’ about?

“Bad Vegan” details how Melngailis’ restaurant Pure Food and Wine became a celebrity hot spot in New York, and how the chef’s business and life gradually spiraled out of control as she met and became involved with Strangis.

Throughout their relationship and marriage, Strangis promised Melngailis protection — and even immortality for her dog, Leon — if she passed a series of tests that generally involved Strangis receiving large sums of money, the Deseret News previously reported. To make these payments, Melngailis started to funnel money from her business, leaving rent and her employees unpaid, per Marie Claire.

Strangis and Melngailis wound up embezzling close to $2 million from employees and investors, the Deseret News reported. After going into hiding for 10 months, they were eventually arrested in 2016, according to Marie Claire.

Following a plea deal where she pleaded guilty to larceny, tax fraud and conspiring to fraud, Melngailis served a four-month sentence on Rikers Island in 2017, Collider reported. She filed for divorce after her sentence, per Marie Claire.


What Sarma Melngailis says about ‘Bad Vegan’

While Melngailis had a few issues with “Bad Vegan,” her biggest concern was the way the four-part series comes to an end — a recorded conversation with Strangis that she claims is “disturbingly misleading.”

In the final minutes of the series, Melngailis is seen chatting — and at one point, laughing — on the phone with Strangis, who says it is nice to hear her voice again. It appears the two are now on good terms.

Sarma Melngailis in “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.”

Sarma Melngailis in “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.”

Netflix

But according to Melngailis, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

These recordings exist because I deliberately made them for the filmmakers, to whom I turned them over immediately, unedited, she wrote on her website earlier this year, noting that it took a lot for her to contact Strangis. I trusted they would use the content honestly. They did not.

On these calls, I tried to steer the conversation to get him to repeat some of the weirder things he’d said in the past, about his supposed immortality and so on. For me, this was both an opportunity to get him back just a tiny bit, and to effectively gather more evidence. Everyone involved (except Anthony Strangis) knew I was playing a part.

In agreeing to participate in and provide content for the ‘documentary,’ I repeatedly emphasized that I simply wanted the final product to be honest and useful. With respect to the extensive written, audio, and video materials I handed over (or participated in creating, in the case of some of the calls), I made it clear that I did not mind being embarrassed (the overall situation is embarrassing enough) as long as it was, again, honest and useful.

Chris Smith and Ryann Fraser, executive producers of “Bad Vegan,” have defended the series’ ending, saying that the phone call does not imply Melngailis and Strangis are close, and that they believe it shows Melngailis “to be confident and strong — making fun of the tales Anthony had spun,” Newsweek reported.

For all of her criticism, though, Melngailis said she is glad her story has reached a wide audience.

“There’s plenty that ‘Bad Vegan’ does get right, and I am glad that my story is at least out there in whatever form so that more people — women mostly — who have experienced anything like I did will feel less alone,” she wrote on her website.


Where is Sarma Melngailis now?

Melngailis lives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York and is active on social media — a recent Instagram post from Dec. 24, 2022, features a photo with her dog, Leon.

“Having Leon around me is extremely grounding,” she told the Netflix website Tudum earlier this year. “If I’m worried or upset, I sometimes hold his face and look in his eyes and tell him that everything’s going to be OK, which makes me feel better. In effect, I’m reassuring myself. Some dogs get anxious when their guardian leaves the house, but for us, it’s the other way around. Leon is fine; I’m the one who gets anxious being away from him.”

According to her website, Melngailis is working on a book.