Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives is the latest true-crime documentary to land on Netflix . Hot on the heels of The Tinder Swindler and Inventing Anna , Bad Vegan delves deep into another con-artist’s jaw-dropping true story, told by his female victim.
Sarma Melngailis met Shane Fox on Twitter in 2011. Fox was actually Anthony Strangis, who was later accused of spending well over $1 million of Melngailis’s money at casinos, specialty watch stores and hotels.
Arrested in 2016, Melngailis and Strangis faced charges including grand larceny and fraud. Both took plea deals, with Melngailis serving four months in prison and Strangis a year, according to The Independent.
Where Melngailis’ story begins in Episode 1 of Bad Vegan, viewers are introduced to Matthew Kenney, who food enthusiasts may recognize. Who is Matthew Kenney and where is he now? Newsweek has everything you need to know.
Who Is Matthew Kenney?
Matthew Kenney is an American celebrity chef, author, and entrepreneur, with a specialty in plant-based cuisine.
He opened his first restaurant, Matthew’s, in New York City in 1993 and was named the following year as the Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine.
In 2004, Kenney together with Melngailis, his then-girlfriend, opened the plant-based restaurant Pure Food and Wine in New York City, with the help of investor Jeffrey Chodorow. Kenney was the restaurant’s original chef.
They had met in 2003 when Kenney hired culinary school graduate Melngailis to work as a researcher on one of his cookbooks.
Throughout the 2000s, their restaurant was a celebrity hotspot for stars, including Chelsea Clinton , Alec Baldwin, Jason Lewis, Stevie Wonder, Anne Hathaway, and Woody Harrelson.
Together, they released the cookbook, Raw Food, Real World: 100 Recipes to Get the Glow. Pure Food and Wine featured twice in New York Magazine’s Top 100 Restaurants piece and made it into Forbes’ list of All-Star New York Eateries five years in a row.
In 2005, Kenney suddenly left Pure Food and Wine. In the Netflix documentary, Chodorow explained he had received phone calls from both Kenney and Melngailis complaining about having to work with one another after a very public breakup. In both cases, they said one of them would have to leave.
In the end, Kenney and Melngailis split professionally, with Melngailis ultimately keeping the restaurant, taking on $2 million of debt.
Chodorow explains in the Netflix documentary Bad Vegan: “When I thought about it, then I said, okay my options are, I have Matthew Kenney, a very talented chef who had a bad financial history and on the other hand I had Sarma, she was a very accomplished person in her own right.
“Sarma had [gone] to Wharton, which was a school I went to. So I assumed she had a very good business head on her shoulders and so I picked Sarma and I told Matthew to go, which frankly, I think shocked him.”
Investor and restaurant owner Chodorow then sued Kenney alleging he had broken his contract by scouting Pure Food and Wine employees to work on his own business. Kenney denied the claims to The New York Times. He also said leaving the business was not his choice.
Newsweek has contacted Kenney’s representatives for comment.
Where Is Matthew Kenney Now?
Since leaving Pure Food and Wine, Kenney’s career has continued to succeed.
Over the years has authored 12 cookbooks and founded numerous vegan restaurants across the world including the U.S., Bahrain, Bogota, Costa Rica, Dubai, Sao Paulo, Sydney and Buenos Aires.
Kenney is also the founder of Matthew Kenney Cuisine and the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy, a plant-based diet education business.
In more recent years, Kenney has continued to open restaurants and business ventures.
In 2019, he opened the all-vegan food hall, Plant City, in Providence, Rhode Island. That same year, he also launched the plant-based nutrition bar, Ntidote Life with Dr. Amir Marashi.
Last year, Kenney opened Adesse, a plant-based restaurant in London’s Selfridges.
Bad Vegan is streaming on Netflix now.