Bad Vegan Netflix

Netflix’s Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. is out today and this wild documentary explores runaway fugitive Sarma Melngailis, aka the ‘queen of vegan cuisine’

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How did a top vegan restaurant devolve into a tale of fraud and fugitives? That’s the question at the heart of Netflix’s latest scandalous documentary Bad Vegan. 

If there’s one thing Netflix knows how to do very well, it’s a documentary that gets the world talking.

While we’ve all been recently enraptured with the goings-on of Simon Leviev in The Tinder Swindler, other Netflix documentaries have left their mark on us in a similarly perplexing way. We uncovered a whole new meaning to the term ‘internet sleuth’ after watching Don’t F*** With Cats, went into a research wormhole after watching Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman and still think about Wild Wild Country as if we just watched it yesterday.

Now, Netflix is promising us a whole new rollercoaster ride of emotions with its latest documentary Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives, and the four-part series is out today (16 March).

And if the trailer is anything to go by, we’re in for a true crime case of wonderful (and bizarre) proportions.

While Bad Vegan is not a food-focused film, it does centre on the scandal behind one of New York’s most popular vegan restaurants, Pure Food And Wine. Specifically, the woman behind it all: Sarma Melngailis aka the ‘queen of vegan cuisine’. 

Bad Vegan Netflix
Sarma Melngailis also featured in Netflix's true crime documentary Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.

A raw food devotee, Melngailis became a celebrity restaurateur who catered for the likes of Owen Wilson, Bill Clinton, model Gisele Bündchen and more. But that all quickly changed once she became a fugitive on the run.

The new four-part documentary comes from Chris Smith, the executive producer of Tiger King and director of Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. It will explore how Melngailis went from being the lauded pioneer of modern vegan cuisine to being known as the ‘vegan fugitive’.

According to the synopsis: “Shortly after meeting a man named Shane Fox on Twitter in 2011, Melngailis begins draining her restaurant’s funds and funnelling the money to Fox after he cons her into believing he could make her dreams – from expanding her food empire to making her beloved pitbull immortal – a reality, but only if she continues to obey his every request without question.”

Bad Vegan Netflix
Melngailis was tracked down after a Domino's pizza order back in 2016.

It goes on: “A few years later the couple, now married and on the lam after stealing nearly $2 million (£1.48 million) from the restaurant and its staff, are found holed up in a Tennessee motel by law enforcement. Their undoing? A charge made under Fox’s real name, Anthony Strangis, for a Domino’s pizza.”

And if reading that only made your eyebrows furrow in confusion, we can assure you – it’s all real. The pair were nabbed after making that fateful Domino’s order, but the documentary digs deeper into the love affair, the power dynamics and the sheer absurdity at the heart of it all.

The trailer provides a small sliver of the drama that’s set to unfold in Bad Vegan and featuring interviews with ex-employees, it’s clear to see how much fanfare Melngailis produced with her restaurant.

“It was ahead of its time,” one former employee can be heard saying. Pictures and magazine frontals of Melngailis flash up, cementing the idea that she was not only the face of the brand, but of New York vegan gastronomy at the time. 

Bad Vegan Netflix
Melngailis was once known as the 'queen of vegan cuisine' and will be giving her side of the story in Netflix's new four-part documentary.

“There were tons of conspiracy theories about why she married him. Was there some sort of blackmail involved?” another ex-colleague asks. 

Well, it seems as though Anthony promised to make Melngailis and her dog immortal. Yes, immortal. If that’s not enough to get you scratching your head while watching this trailer, perhaps the mention of a ‘meat suit’ will.

It’s New York’s strangest scandal and we just know each episode will come with revelations we’re not quite prepared for. 

Melngailis even gets referred to as the vegan Bernie Madoff, the American fraudster and financier who ran the largest Ponzi scheme in history, so we know there’s a lot in store – especially as the trailer ends with Melngailis herself giving an interview.

Watch the trailer for yourself here:  

Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. is available to stream on Netflix now. 

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Images: Netflix

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