“In the early 2000s, Sarma Melngailis seemed to be living the charmed life of a glamorous celebrity chef and foodie media darling. Her very glamorous raw food restaurant, Pure Food & Wine was adored by the glitterati, (and also practically my second home) and her camera-ready image as the ‘Queen of Veganism,’ seemed poised to take her global. Then, circa 2015, Sarma vanished like a thief in the night. Literally. She disappeared, leaving a whole crowd of angry employees, landlords, and investors in the dust. Under investigation for a heaping bowl of fraud accusations, labor law violations, and a hefty tab of unpaid wages, with 2 million dollars drained from her restaurant accounts: Sarma the Celebrity Chef became Sarma the Runaway Fugitive overnight. How does someone go from being a Foodie ‘It Girl’ to the “vegan Bernie Madoff” ? It might have a little bit to do with a smooth operator who slid into her DMs and used next-level coercive control tactics to take over her life. Sarma’s story is chronicled in the Netflix true crime series “Bad Vegan”, by the producers of Tiger King, and she’s currently at work on her highly-anticipated memoir.” This is the opening of Alittlebitculty’s interview with Sarma via Jess Tardy entitled; Sarma Speaks: A ‘Bad Vegan’ Exclusive
Here’s what you don’t know – Sarma is my friend of 17 years. I was then working for an animal rights non profit, toiling away for the animals day and night. One of the many things I did in that position was ask for favors – and unlike the majority of NYC’s notables – Sarma never said no once. In fact, she wanted to help more, do more, and strategize ways to help animals and people. We had many a chat and email and dinner. Her kindnesses to me, the organization, and anyone I introduced to her as my friend was never-ending. She is brilliant, funny, snarky, and loves animal more than anyone I’ve ever met, and that’s saying a lot. I had no clue about this tabloid-esque turn her life took, but here’s what I do know – the difference between a good person and a bad one. My picker has never been wrong – and Sarma has always very clearly fallen into thoroughly imperfect GOOD PERSON territory.
We spoke the other day, and she wanted me to tell all of you that she tells her truth – fully and unedited – in this podcast interview. She would like for you to listen – with an open mind – if possible. I would like for the world to refrain from stoning her to death for falling prey to a true predator (something I’ve seen happen in my own family with my Mother’s second con artist husband) and give her a chance to prove you all wrong. Anyone can be taken, it’s what they do in their second act that shows what they’re truly made of.
Watch what she does next.
Give this special person a little slack, and hear her out:
Photograph by Chris Dempsey