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The release of Netflix’s docu-series, Bad Vegan, has many wondering about the entire truth of vegan restaurateur Sarma Melngailis’ roller-coaster history in the food industry. In the unraveling of crimes committed alongside her ex-husband Anthony Strangis, Bad Vegan is a behind-the-scenes of how a supposedly wholesome foodie brand became embroiled in scandal.
Employees of Melngailis went months on end without receiving a paycheck, unsure of what was going on at the other end. In a chaotic game of pointing fingers, the dust has finally settled for everyone to move forward from Pure Food & Wine. From a Netflix follow-up interview and across social media, the current whereabouts of the cast of Bad Vegan all seem to be heading upwards.
Bad Vegan may have been Melngailis’ platform to flesh out the details of her crime. However, viewers and critics have struggled to suspend their disbelief on her continued obliviousness, given her academic and street-wise record.
In 2017, Melngailis took a plea deal and pleaded guilty to larceny, tax fraud, and conspiring to defraud, serving four months on Rikers Island. Since her release, she has been actively sharing her story across media, intending to clear her name. Melngailis’ ex-workers have since been reimbursed with funds made from her appearances in media.
During a New York Post interview, the raw food enthusiast hints at potentially opening another restaurant, saying, “if there was some magical opportunity to open the same restaurant in the same place, I would do it in a heartbeat. I think New York would take me back.” Melngailis still lives in New York, spending most of her time in her Harlem apartment reading and with her dog Leon. With plans in media, she has hinted at the release of an upcoming podcast and maintains the details of her life on her blog, Sarma Raw.
Potentially the most elusive and compelling character of Melngailis’ story, Anthony Strangis, does not appear on-screen besides in archive footage. He chose not to participate in the docuseries and has completely distanced himself from the entire ordeal. Releasing only a single statement to E! News via an attorney, Strangis stated that “he’s gone on to live his life…He’s got a job, uses his name, this is behind him, and she’s behind him.”
In a blog post uploaded shortly after Bad Vegan, Melngailis has cleared the air regarding any communications with Strangis since the release. She said that “The ending of Bad Vegan is disturbingly misleading; I am not in touch with Anthony Strangis and I made those recordings at a much earlier time.”
As the initial financial backbone of Pure Food & Wine, Jeffrey Chodorow played a significant role as a gateway to Melngailis’ entrepreneurship. With a lengthy career extending across roles as restaurateur, lawyer, and financier, Chodorow continues his business-savvy adventures to this day.
Chodorow extends his restauranteur ventures to Miami, where his company has leased out a space in the Bal Harbor Shops. He told local Miami newspaper The Commercial Observer: “It’s going to be one of my classics.” He currently resides in Miami with his family. His two sons, Zach and Max, also have careers in the food and restaurant industry.
Nazim Seliakhov was one of Strangis’ earliest victims, having invested nearly $100,000 directly in him and was his supposed business partner. Given the chaotic working environment at Pure Food & Wine, it is understandable that he joins Melngailis in exposing Strangis’ behavior.
Following the foreclosure of Pure Food & Wine, Seliakhov reprised his role as an Operational Manager at Viridium Distribution, a cannabis marketing agency, from mid-2017 to early 2018. He currently resides in New York City and has leaned into his entrepreneurial side, being the founder of a pharmaceutical-grade Industrial Hemp Processing Laboratory. Seliakhov remains private online, with his only public social media profile being his LinkedIn.
Anthony Caruana’s close friendship with Melngailis was one of the more positive components of Bad Vegan, with wholesome anecdotes and displays of mutual praise for one another. Melngailis often assisted with Caruana’s living situation by inviting him to dine at Pure Food & Wine and storing his belongings at her apartment as seasons changed.
The current status of their friendship is unknown, with the most recent updates from Caruana’s Facebook last noted in 2016. He is very active online and often posts to his Instagram and YouTube channels. He has disclosed in these posts that he resides in his car with his belongings on Park Avenue, South New York.
As one of the first employees to notice discrepancies in how Pure Food & Wine operated, the former manager sees her time there as a lesson for practicing empathy.
Bonnie Crocker has since relocated to Venice, California, where she works as a funeral coordinator, a grief counselor, and a bereavement minister. She has worked with her congregation for six years, and she also assists in distress aid gatherings. Crocker describes her current work as a sense of closure from “a lot of loss,” as she “never had a funeral or a memorial for Pure.” Crocker reflects on her time in hospitality, stating her experience there was a catalyst to her current position.
Having worked with Melngailis at two of her establishments, Nick Ross acknowledged his time in the restaurant industry as frustrating but highly rewarding. Ross notes that the biggest takeaway from his experience was his taught skills, namely taking constructive criticism and navigating high-end networks.
After Pure Food & Wine, Ross endured a battle with cancer that lasted eight months. He is now following a different path, having relocated to Denver, Colorado, to pursue writing, video producing, and storytelling. Ross is the Senior Video Design Manager at Brandfolder. He has earned several brand partnerships, sponsorships, and more than 100 million views across his work with CBS, Fox Sports, BuzzFeed, Refinery29, and People Magazine. In his personal time, he works on a web series in association with The Moth, NYC.
Jim Switzer credits his interest in sustainability from food sourcing and various back-of-house operations at Pure Food & Wine. Since his departure, he has continued to work in operations, with experience as Director of Operations at Blackwood Hospitality and Senior Operations Specialist, at restaurant concept firm Pen to Plate.
Switzer currently resides in Rosendale, New York, and has been enrolled online in an undergraduate degree in Liberal Studies/Sustainability at the Oregon State University since September 2020. He has continued to work in the restaurant industry and is currently a baker but is open to whatever the future may be, stating he will “see what happens after.”
As the beverage director of Pure Food & Wine, Joey Repice crafted menus and drink pairings for the restaurant. He has since continued to venture into his culinary skills, having launched his brand of hot sauce.
As a new beginning, Repice has moved out west and honed his talents at multiple restaurants in Los Angeles. Repice sees his time at Pure Food & Wine as incredible as it is the place he met his wife, Lisa, with whom he lives in Ashland, Oregon. The launch of his brand, Joey’s Hot Sauce, is dedicated to her love of spice and hot food. Adding to his achievements, Repice revealed in a podcast with The Drunkalogues that he has been sober for 16 years.
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