Celebrities adore her and fine diners love her food too… but “Vegan Queen” Sarma Melngailis threw it all away in a frantic barking attempt to get the dog to hers becomes immortal.
Melngailis is the brains and beauty behind the posh Pure Food and Wine restaurant in New York.
The guestbook is read by many stars such as A-list stars Who’s Who – Woody Harrelson, Stevie Wonder, Darryl Hannah, Anne Hathaway, Owen Wilson … even former US President Bill Clinton. But Melngailis was undone by love. And believe.
She became a vegan fugitive after stealing from her husband’s business for money claiming he could make her pitbull Leon live forever.
They were on the run for 10 months but were caught in a motel in Tennessee after ordering a Domino’s cheese pizza – with chicken wings on the side.
Stranger Story Than Fiction is unpicked in Netflix’s new Bad Vegan series, starting Monday. From the producers of the hit show Tiger King, it charts how the Ivy League educated the world of Melngailis has fallen.
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The story is from her point of view, with the claim Anthony Strangis was in control of her life.
His lawyer denied all of her allegations in court.
Melngailis begins to spend money when Strangis promises he can grow her food empire and guarantee the eternal pet Leon.
Between them, they allegedly took $2 million from the company and employees.
An indictment alleges that, over 12 months, Strangis spent more than $1 million at casinos, withdrawing hundreds of thousands of dollars, spending $80,000 on watches and another $70,000 on trips to Europe.
Melngailis’ friend, novelist Porochista Khakpour, says it’s all down to the dog. “Melngailis has lost her mind,” she said. “She truly believes her dog will live forever.
Melngailis gained attention when she appeared on the cover of a cookbook she wrote with then-boyfriend, chef Matthew Kenney, in 2005.
The Pure Food and Wine restaurant had opened a year earlier in Manhattan.
Cocktails include the Master Cleanse Tini, an organic saké served in a crystal-rimmed martini glass.
The dish is made from a variety of cultured grain cheeses. It has over 200 customers per night and an annual profit of $500,000.
They often take pictures featuring the stars – one shows them with Jason Lewis of Harrelson and Sex and the City.
Pure is rumored to have inspired the episode of SATC, where Jason’s character Smith Jerrod meets Samantha Jones at the restaurant he works at, Raw.
Melngailis, now 49, and Kenney, 57, split both personally and professionally a year later. She kept the restaurant, and Kenney went on to found his own California-based lifestyle company, Matthew Kenney Cuisine, which opened its first restaurant in London last year.
Meanwhile Melngailis and Pure Food and Wine vowed to lead the raw vegan movement, opening juice bars and selling branded snacks. But tension started to emerge.
She wrote on her blog in 2007: “All these people would probably choke on their crackers if they knew that not only am I constantly walking around feeling completely exhausted, Tired and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and with a few hundred thousand dollars in personal debt with me, I am full of rage wanting to build this empire with remnants and occasional reappearances in disorder. eating vandalizes the wardrobe. ”
After another breakup, Melngailis adopted Leon from a rescue center in Brooklyn.
Friends say she threw herself into work. But by 2011, she was ready to date again and met Strangis after he flirted with her online with her real name Shane Fox.
In the four-part Netflix documentary, it is claimed that he has promised large rewards if she transfers the money of her restaurant to him.
In court, Strangis denied the charges and said his wife was the one willing to participate. He seems to have disappeared from the public eye since the scandal. Guide Strangis served time for grand theft and posing as a police officer, both in 2005.
Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
According to Melngailis’ legal team, Strangis told her that Leon had been his dog in a previous life and that the three had been together for a thousand years.
Melngailis herself said, “Among the things I have been given, Leon will also be immortal and safe with me forever.”
In a recorded phone call obtained by Netflix, Melngailis is heard saying, “So I just do whatever you say and follow your instructions?”
Strangis, who was brought on as a manager at the restaurant in 2013, replied: “You signed this. You told me you wanted to be happy forever. 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 more than $1.6 million from the business to her personal account, and the employee ignored the alleged unpaid wages.
After fleeing, Melngailis and Strangis were eventually found hiding at a motel in Tennessee. They were arrested after ordering pizza under his real name, Fox.
In 2017, they were charged with 24 counts of fraud and unpaid taxes and wages. Melngailis pleaded guilty to stealing more than $200,000 from an investor and conspiracy to commit fraud, as well as criminal tax fraud charges.
She served three months in New York’s notorious Rikers Island prison and was ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution.
Strangis pleaded guilty to four counts of grand theft and was jailed for one year, with five years probation – and was ordered to repay $840,000.
In court, the state-appointed attorney, Samuel Karliner, denied allegations that Strangis was a gambler who used cult methods to control his wife, including lighting fires, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation.
Speaking to the New York Post from prison, where she still tries to maintain her vegan diet, Melngailis said: “It’s been my worst nightmare. If I had terminal cancer, it would have been better than this, because at least then I wouldn’t have caused it. I love my workers. When I get out, I’ll find something to do and give it back.”
Melngailis still hopes to revive her restaurant business. She now lives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. With pitbull Leon of course.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/tv/tv-news/netflix-series-shows-vegan-queen-26451207 Netflix Series Shows 'Vegan Queen' Runs Away With $2 Million And Caught With Domino's Pizza