Bad Vegan’s Pure Food & Wine employees react to the documentary: ‘holy sh-t’

Bonnie Crocket
Netflix has a new eight and a half minute clip featuring reactions from former Pure Food & Wine employees interviewed after seeing Bad Vegan. I remember most of them from the documentary series, and I like that Netflix followed up with them and gave them the space to plug their services and products. They were all kind of blown away after learning how Sarma Melngailis handed over payroll to Anthony Strangis in various lump sums. They also repeated what we heard on the show, that their work environment was lovely and that they miss their friends and colleagues. They told stories about meeting famous people like Rue McClanahan, Steve Wonder, David Blaine and Woody Harrelson. Two of the people interviewed had met their partners while working at Pure Food & Wine and are still with them! You can see the clip below and it’s worth watching if you saw the series. Here’s some of what they said:

On the environment at work
Nick P. Ross: I still look back with fond memories of how supportive [she was] and how much she championed me.
Chef Nicki Bennett: We had a a great environment in the kitchen. Friendly, we loved each other. We really created a family.
Joey Repice: There was so much more than just a job that was lost in that place.

Their reactions after watching Bad Vegan
Maiquen Saez-Vega: I was like, “Holy sh-t, I didn’t know sh-t.”
Bennett: One thing that was a surprise was finding out that Michael Caledonia, who Sarma introduced me to as an investor for Pure Food and Wine, it turns out that was actually Anthony.
Repice: The money that just kept flying out. The transfers that just kept happening. It was just shocking, really.
Ross: I think the most surprising piece was that they posted up in Vegas for like 10 months. I was just there for a wedding, and after four days, I was exhausted.
Jim Switzer: There were over 100 employees there. Before they lost their jobs, they didn’t get paid. And I didn’t think that Sarma really showed any empathy for that.
Bonnie Crocket: I think people are still going to be polarized about Sarma and what she went through.
Ross: He was promising money, promising that her debt would go away. He was promising that she was going to be immortal or whatever. It’s just hard because I feel like I have such a skepticism, like deep in my core that I’m like, “If it’s too good to be true.”

[From Netflix on YouTube]

Chef Bennett also said that she thinks there’s still mystery around what happened and that she wants to find out more. Bonnie Crocket, who was a manager at the restaurant, now works as a bereavement counselor and minister in California. She seemed to understand the most. She said “You never really know what another person’s going through no matter how well you know them. I hope people will take away from this that empathy is important.”

Like the Theranos HBO documentary, The Inventor, I appreciated the employees the most and wanted to hear from them. I’m glad we got this follow up. I would love to see more with them. Given how popular this show is, that’s likely to happen in a second season of this series.

Joey Repice

Nicki Bennett

Maiquen Saez-Vega

Photos courtesy of Netflix

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18 Responses to “Bad Vegan’s Pure Food & Wine employees react to the documentary: ‘holy sh-t’”

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  1. L84Tea says:

    I really hope they are all getting paid back.

  2. Seraphina says:

    Just read some article where psychologists identified DARK EMPATHS. These people usually do well connecting with people but there is a dark side where they take advantage. They are usually business leaders. It made quite a bit of sense.
    It would be interesting to have a psychologist psychoanalyze her. I want to say she was a willing participant and she also tried to take advantage of the guy but getting older has taught me that nothing everything is as simple as I make it out to be.

    • R says:

      This is such a frustrating take. As Sarma said, why would she willingly ruin her entire life and affect so many people around her that she cared about? And lose ALL HER MONEY and then some? Her business she worked so hard for. What was she left with? Nothing. Even her reputation was tarnished. It’s called coercive control. Look it up. She was brainwashed and abused. She did a podcast about it and published a letter she had written to him in 2016 to try to show where she was at. It blows my mind people are still villainizing her and I haven’t seen you say one thing about….ANTHONY. Check out the last two links. If she had gone with her original lawyer, who was going to paint it as it was, abuse, the whole story would’ve been portrayed differently in the media. The documentary should’ve had a psychoanalyst explaining what was happening and maybe people like you wouldn’t have missed the point so hard.

    • AmyB says:

      I have to agree with @R here. It is certainly a complicated issue, but the amount of coercive control an abuser, who has groomed you, can be astounding. Look into Scientology, or even Keith Raniere and his NXIVM cult, where women were literally physically branded and used as sex slaves – BECAUSE they were brainwashed!! In those examples, those people all did the things they did of their own volition but were completely brainwashed and groomed. You simply cannot dismiss the psychological effects of things like this. Does it make sense from the outside? NO! But I agree, with the above commentor, it would have been very helpful to have a psychoanalyst explain more in depth the psychology behind what happened here. It doesn’t completely absolve Sarma of all she did by any means, just gives a better perspective, IMO.

    • Emma33 says:

      If you’d like to hear a psychologist’s analysis- check out the psychology in Seattle podcast. Dr Honda just did an ep on her. He specializes in treating people with personality disorders, and also talks a lot about attachment issues. He said Anthony was a pretty classic sociopath, no surprises there!

      • AmyB says:

        @Emma33 Thank you! I really am interested in hearing a professional in psychology’s point of view! I have no surprise in hearing Anthony is a classic sociopath, and I think he also found the perfect victim in Sharma, with her personality issues – abandonment issues, I’m guessing she suffered from some depression and feeling very isolated and lonely.

  3. Anna says:

    Aw, the last scene in the video where Maiquen almost cried. 🙁

    • idon'twanna says:

      Yeah, I watched his chin tremble and I just thought – “THIS is the real cost.” He’s clearly hurting.

  4. Willow says:

    I agree, it’s the employees caught up in these scams that I worry about it and follow. The Theranos employees and the ones from Fyre Island too. It isn’t just money lost, but careers are ruined. Even small business owners in the Caribbean(?) got ruined by that Fyre guy. And it’s got to be really hard to recover emotionally from that.

  5. ktate says:

    The largest take away for me about this doc was that food service employees loved working in a restaurant together in NY, loved each other, and their boss! Restaurants in general are toxic places to work and for them to say that they miss that environment and each other says a lot.

    • R says:

      I feel it speaks to her character. It shows before the abuse, she was a beloved and empathetic person (and obviously really always loved animals). To portray her as something other than that is missing the point. She didn’t start burning bridges until this man came into her life and scorched everything she had worked for to the ground.

  6. Imara219 says:

    I tried to get into Bad Vegan but it was grossly clear that she knew what was going on, that fraud was being committed but she didn’t care. She wanted someone to just clear her debt. She wanted to just be free from the weight of it all even if it meant screwing over the very people who supported her. I hate how these documentaries make it seem as if the subject is the victim. She’s able to cry her yt woman tears on Twitter and people are sticking up for her. No ma’am.

    • TheOtherOne says:

      I agree. I couldn’t get past the first episode after they failed to buy the townhome together and she admitted she needed the money to get out from under her $2mm debt.

    • R says:

      Nope, that isn’t it. It’s called coercive control. FFS. Look it up. Many women who experience it have no idea they are experiencing it, that’s how skilled the abusers are. No one would willingly ruin their entire life and everything they worked for, and ruin their reputation so badly. The story should’ve really explained more about what was happening psychologically because if you’re not *in* it, it sounds bat shit crazy. She knows that. The abuser does it slowly and skillfully. She did a podcast episode on it and posted a letter she had written to anthony from 2016 to show how she was feeling. It’s extremely enlightening, and disturbing. (Last two links)

      • Imara219 says:

        This chick sat there on camera and pulled receipts for everything and was able to explain in detail all of the fraud BUT her own crimes and compliance. That’s when I realized she was gaming the system. Whenever it came time to explain her role in things, she feigned ignorance and forgetfulness. Every.Single.Time. Also, the very beginning of their relationship had red flags, after just a couple of months her employees’ told her and showed her his record and real name and she wrote it off. Sarma is a fraud.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I haven’t watched this yet, but keep hearing all about it. This post about the workers changed my mind about putting it off longer. Thanks!

  8. D says:

    The story probably should have mentioned her F@&$ing her married lawyer. May have shown a bit more how this girl clearly sleeps with men who can help her and got just lost at her own game this time.