Sarma Melngailis has taken aim at journalist Allen Salkin, claiming he used her for financial gain after it was announced his 2016 Vanity Fair article about her and her scammer ex-husband, Anthony Strangis, is being adapted into a drama series.
In the piece, titled ‘The Runaway Vegan,’ he chronicled how the Pure Food and Wine owner went from the ‘Queen of Vegan Cuisine’ to a fugitive after marrying Strangis, whom she claimed manipulated her into swindling nearly $2 million from investors and stiffing unpaid employees before going on the run with him.
On Tuesday, Deadline reported that ‘Pure’ — a one-hour drama based on Salkin’s article — is in development at Peacock and being billed as a ‘tragic, twisted love story.’
The upcoming series follows the success of director Chris Smith’s Netflix documentary ‘Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives,’ which was not based on the article but featured appearances from both Melngailis and Salkin.
Salkin celebrated the new show on Instagram, writing: ‘Talented people are bringing their all to this terrific project.’ Melngailis, who has already slammed Smith over her portrayal in ‘Bad Vegan,’ responded with a series of nauseated and vomiting face emojis.
Sarma Melngailis, 49, (left) slammed journalist Allen Salkin on Instagram after it was announced his 2016 Vanity Fair article about her is being adapted into a drama series
Salkin celebrated the new Peacock show, called ‘Pure,’ in an Instagram post, which led Melngailis to leave a series of nauseated and vomiting face emojis in the comments
The former chef, 49, shared a screenshot of his post and her comment on her own Instagram page, saying it was from her and her beloved dog, Leon, whom Strangis allegedly promised to make immortal.
In her own post, the former vegan chef claimed Salking had kept her close ‘to be a source’ and asked how much he was being paid for the show
‘Leon and I commented on @allensalkin’s gleeful post about this “terrific” new project. He was the one awkwardly in a suit in #badvegan. He’s kept me close *to be a source* all this time. As if concerned,’ she wrote.
‘How much are you being paid @allensalkin? How does it feel? Maybe *you* answer some questions. And who are those people cheering you on in your comments on this post on *your* page?’
Melngailis has claimed that the only payment she received for her participation in ‘Bad Vegan’ went directly to her former employees, insisting she did not personally profit.
‘I have not benefited otherwise. I will, one way or another, crawl out from the rest of the debt despite Mr Fox getting away clean-slate and the rest of you making bank off of all this,’ she wrote in her latest post, referring to Strangis as Mr. Fox, one of his various aliases.
She compared the new show to ‘selling splashy photos of a car crash to tabloids while the victims are on crutches and saddled with medical bills,’ saying she can’t move on ‘when news like this pops up.’
Melngailis claimed her ex-husband, Anthony Strangis (right), manipulated her into swindling nearly $2 million from investors and stiffing unpaid employees before going on the run
Melngailis co-founded her restaurant Pure Food and Wine with her then-boyfriend, chef Matthew Kenney (second from left), in 2004, attracting a number of A-list fans, including Woody Harrelson (far left) and Jason Lewis (far right)
The New York restaurant was a night life hotspot that was beloved for its raw food vegan recipes
‘I’ll keep getting up and speaking up not for me but for all the (mostly) women writing to me about their similar awful stories of pain, shame, and blame, still not recovered, and without the opportunities I’m lucky enough to have to speak out and find a way to turn this all into something useful,’ she continued.
‘Despite you doing this now. And despite him and all of the toxic perpetrators out there who seem to always get away. Blissfully without conscience. ‘I haven’t had coffee yet or walked Leon [because] I’m writing this stupid post. But I needed to. Onward.’
Salkin has since updated his caption to remove the word ‘terrific’ and include a link to resources on coercive control, which Melngailis claimed she suffered at the hands of Strangis.
In his 2016 article, he defined coercive control as ‘a form of domestic violence that can manifest as a cult of one, with a spouse as [a] brainwashed follower.’
When a commenter asked Salkin if Melngailis would be paid for the Peacock show, he explained it wasn’t up to him.
Melngailis said she was lonely when she connected with Strangis on Twitter in 2011 and naively trusted him because of his interactions with Alec Baldwin, wrongly assuming they were friends
Melngailis married Strangis in December 2012, but the mysterious circumstances surrounding their marriage have led to speculation there might have been some blackmail involved
She claimed Strangis conned her into funneling her restaurant’s funds to him by promising to expand her food empire and also make her beloved dog, Leon (pictured), immortal
‘That’s up to the producers and potentially Sarma, however I really hope Sarma publishes her promised book and says everything she wants how she wants,’ he responded.
Melngailis wrote in a recent blog post that she is working on a book that ‘will give the full and accurate picture of what happened’ between her and her ex-husband.
In another Instagram post from March 28, she accused Netflix of ‘mocking’ the alleged psychological abuse she suffered and making her look like a ‘glamorized villain’ in ‘Bad Vegan.’
‘There are more important things going on in the world than the misrepresentation of *my* story, but I’ll continue to speak out in objection to the mocking of psychological abuse by Netflix and the misportrayal of these kinds of stories in general,’ she wrote.
She shared side-by-side photos of herself looking beguiling while eating a salad on a ‘Bad Vegan’ billboard and her crying with black mascara running down her face, admitting the images are ‘fresh raw meat for those who say I’m “playing the victim.”‘
In Salkin’s Vanity Fair article, a source close to the former restaurateur claimed that Strangis resorted to cult-like techniques such as gaslighting, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation to control her
Strangis allegedly convinced her that if she did not pass certain tests to prove her loyalty, such as performing oral sex while blindfolded, forces controlled by his brother would come for her
Trouble began at the restaurant at the start of 2015 when 60 staff members said they weren’t being paid and subsequently staged multiple walkouts and protests
‘Me looking like a glamorized villain eating a cash salad is not me,’ she insisted. ‘It may help Netflix sensationalize the story, but at my expense, and at the expense of a greater understanding of the larger issues, including #coercivecontrol #narcissisticabuse #cultmindcontrol and more.
‘I will make my story honest and useful, even if Netflix and Chris Smith did not,’ she added, ending her post with the hashtag #igotout.
Melngailis also shared a link in her bio to a blog post she wrote railing against the controversial ending of the Netflix docuseries, claiming it was ‘staged.’
The final episode concluded with her and Strangis laughing and joking during a phone call that was said to be recorded in 2019 after they both got out of prison.
‘There is controversy over the ending of Bad Vegan. I’ve written something to address that. It’s long. I need to shorten it, and I haven’t had time,’ she wrote.
In 2015, Melngailis and Strangis disappeared and spent a year on the run. After her arrest, she pled guilty to stealing from an investor, scheming to defraud, and criminal tax fraud charges
Melngailis was sentenced to four months in New York’s notorious Rikers prison. As part of her punishment, she was also ordered to repay $1.5million in restitution payments.
Melngaili’s rise and fall was chronicled in the recent Netflix docuseries ‘Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives,’ which featured both her and Salkin
‘The main point is that the call at the end was a staged call, recorded for the documentary, a small slice of which was misused to represent something that’s the opposite of true.’
Melngailis co-founded Pure Food and Wine with her then-boyfriend, chef Matthew Kenney, in 2004, attracting a number of A-list fans, including Alec Baldwin, Chelsea Clinton, Tom Brady, Owen Wilson, and Woody Harrelson.
After her personal and professional split from Kenney, she took control of the entire company and its $2 million debt with the help of investor Jeffrey Chodorow.
She also opened One Lucky Duck, a vegan juice bar and takeaway, next door to her raw food restaurant and published two vegan cookbooks.
Melngailis said she was lonely when she connected with Strangis on Twitter in 2011 and naively trusted him because of his interactions with Baldwin, wrongly assuming they were friends.
Melngailis recently slammed Netflix on Instagram, claiming the streaming site made her look like a ‘glamorized villain’ to ‘sensationalize’ her story in ‘Bad Vegan’
The former chef also accusing ‘Bad Vegan’ director Chris Smith of ‘mocking’ her scammer ex’s alleged ‘psychological abuse’
She married Strangis in December 2012, but the mysterious circumstances surrounding their marriage have led to speculation that there might have been some blackmail involved.
How Sarma Melngailis went from ‘plant food Queen’ to ‘Vegan Bernie Madoff’
2004: Sarma Melngailis opens Pure Food and Wine in New York
2005: She opens One Lucky Duck, a juice and takeaway next to the restaurant
2011: Melngailis meets Anthony Strangis on Twitter
December 2012: Melngailis and Strangis and get married in New York
2013: She brings Strangis in as a manager at her restauration business.
January 2015: Pure Food and Wine and One Lucky Duck staff walk out en-masse due to Melngailis’s failure to pay employees for a month
Melngailis tells her staff the delay in payments is due to changing banks
February 2015: Melngailis claims in an interview the delay in wages were actually caused by the restaurant’s debts and the cost of ingredients
May 2015: Newspapers report the restaurateur has vanished with nearly $2 million
July 2015: Staff walk out of the restaurant again, and it is permanently closed
May 2016: Melngailis and Strangis are arrested in Sevierville, Tennessee
November 2016: Melgngailis claims she was under the control of Strangis
May 2017: Melngailis pleads guilty to stealing more than $200,000 from an investor and scheming to defraud, as well as criminal tax fraud charges
June 2017: Former restaurateur is jailed for four months
May 2018: She files for divorce from Strangis
March 2022: ‘Bad Vegan: Fame, Fraud, Fugitives’ is released on Netflix
April 2022: Peacock announces new drama series based on Allen Salkin’s 2016 Vanity Fair article about about Melngailis and Strangis titled ‘Pure’
The relationship surprised many, with even Strangis’ own stepmother wondering what the successful, attractive businesswoman saw in her son, who was overweight and an alleged gambling addict.
Melngailis brought him on board as a manager at her restaurant in 2013.
She claimed that Strangis conned her into funneling her restaurant’s funds to him by promising to expand her food empire and also make her pit bull rescue, Leon, immortal.
Melngailis said Strangis would warn her that if she did not pass certain tests to prove her loyalty, such as giving him money or performing oral sex while blindfolded, forces controlled by his brother would ‘gut’ him and come for her.
Strangis had gained weight since they met and dealing with his obesity was allegedly also another test.
In Salkin’s Vanity Fair article, a source close to the former restaurateur claimed that Strangis resorted to cult-like techniques such as gaslighting, sleep deprivation, and sexual humiliation to control her.
The same source added that he convinced Melngailis her computer had been hacked in order to get her passwords for all her devices, including e-mails, phone, and bank accounts.
Strangis refuted the claims through his lawyer at the time.
From January 2014 to January 2015, Melngailis transferred more than $1.6 million from the business accounts to her personal bank account.
Trouble began at the restaurant at the start of 2015 when 60 staff members said they weren’t being paid and subsequently staged multiple walkouts and protests.
In May 2015, she and Strangis disappeared with the money and the restaurant closed permanently in July of that year.
They were caught by authorities on May 12, 2016, after Strangis used his real name to order a non-vegan cheese pizza and buffalo wings from Domino’s to their hotel room in Sevierville, Tennessee.
In May 2017, Melngailis pleaded guilty to stealing more than $200,000 from an investor and scheming to defraud, as well as criminal tax fraud charges.
She was sentenced to four months in New York’s notorious Rikers prison.
As part of her punishment, she was also ordered to repay $1.5 million in restitution payments.
Strangis pleaded guilty to four counts of grand larceny in the fourth degree. He was sentenced to one year in jail and five years probation and had to repay $840,000 to investors
He walked free having already spent a year behind bars at Rikers.