In the event you watched the Netflix sequence Unhealthy Vegan, you might have seen a chef’s identify that needs to be acquainted in SF vegan circles — Matthew Kenney, who’s the movie star chef behind SF’s two-year-old vegan Italian restaurant Baia.
Kenney, who’s extra well-known round Los Angeles and New York than in San Francisco, has within the final twenty years constructed a significant empire of plant-based restaurants around the globe — many in inns, and together with the Sestina Pasta Bar and Double Zero pizza chains. However early in his profession, Kenney opened two New York eating places with then-girlfriend Sarma Melngailis, the short-lived Commissary (2001-2003), adopted by Pure Meals & Wine in 2004. The latter grew to become a media darling and a favourite hangout of vegan celebrities like Alec Baldwin, and Melngailis and Kenney co-authored a cookbook in 2005 titled RAW FOOD/actual world.
Pure Meals & Wine is the restaurant on the middle of Unhealthy Vegan, and was the supply of the embezzlement and fraud scheme for which Melngailis and her gambling-addict ex-husband Anthony Strangis have been convicted in 2016. Strangis did not enter the image till round 2011, and Kenney had lengthy since left the restaurant — pushed out by investor Jeffrey Chodorow, who stated he had extra religion in Melngailis’s enterprise acumen when she and Kenney stated they might not work collectively after breaking apart in 2009.
As of late, Melngailis has misplaced her profession within the meals world, and as she says within the documentary, she does not count on anybody would ever need to spend money on a enterprise by her after the revelations concerning the fraud scheme. However Kenney has remained in her nook, and as TMZ reports, he stated by way of a rep that he needs Sarma the very best, he believes in second possibilities, and if she desires to open one other restaurant she ought to do it.
Clearly, he does not sound like he is operating to again her in any monetary manner, although. (Baia stays open and ostensibly a hit, within the former Jardiniere area in Hayes Valley.)
Along with bilking buyers, Chodorow included, Melngailis and Strangis screwed a bunch of workers out of paychecks, and finally their jobs, at what was a profitable and common Manhattan restaurant. The documentary led to a good quantity of Twitter chatter about Melngailis maybe taking part in up her victimhood, when her innocence in the entire scheme is not so reduce and dry.
Additionally, some oddly friendly-sounding telephone calls between Melngailis and Strangis after their arrests raised many eyebrows.
Melngailis has referred to as the Netflix documentary, significantly the ending, “disturbingly deceptive,” however she stated she was nonetheless grateful for “the protection” of her story, and what she says is a case of coercive management on the a part of Strangis. (The story of their 2016 arrest blew up in New York media as a result of, after a yr on the run, they turned up in motel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee ordering Domino’s pizza and wings —which was apparently all for Strangis, however therefore the “unhealthy vegan” moniker.)
Melngailis hinted on social media that there might be a “subsequent installment coming quickly.”
And she or he made clear after her 2018 launch from Rikers Island that she hopes to revive her One Fortunate Duck model, and maybe Pure Meals & Wine itself.
“In the event you inform me to open a meals truck, I’ll need to punch you within the face. (Sorry),” she wrote on her blog. “I would like the massive model again, the restaurant again. Not for me, however in order that they exist once more, for individuals who liked them and people to return who would.”
She has implied on her weblog that she maintains some supply of labor and revenue, although it is unclear what that’s. This month, after the discharge of the doc, she wished to make clear that she had not financially benefited from the Netflix present. She agreed to have Netflix, nonetheless, pay to compensate the previous workers of her restaurant who have been nonetheless owed again pay. “Of all of the hurt and the numerous money owed ensuing from my downfall, this portion weighed heaviest,” Melngailis writes.
High picture: Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis, then the proprietors of Pure Meals & Wine in New York, at a e book get together for his or her uncooked meals cookbook on July 17, 2005. Picture by Theo Wargo/WireImage by way of Getty Photographs