Netflix's new true crime series has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

Sarma Melngailis in Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix has another new hit true crime documentary series that everybody is talking about. Bad Vegan follows in the buzzy footsteps of Tindler Swindler and Worst Roommate Ever and currently has a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes

Bad Vegan boasts legit true crime credentials, coming from the producers of Tiger King and Chris Smith, director of Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened. 

The docuseries chronicles the rise and fall of restauranteur Sarma Melngailis, who co-founded vegan restaurant Pure Food and Wine in New York City in 2004. She became the face of the burgeoning vegan dining movement and quickly became a celebrity chef. 

Then, she met and became involved with a man named Shane Fox on Twitter. Melngailis began funneling the restaurant's money to him. Years later, she was later charged with grand larceny and fraud. 

Perhaps worse, she allegedly ate cheese!

Who is Bad Vegan Sarma Melngailis?

Melngailis earned a degree from the French Culinary Institute. In 2004, she opened Pure Food and Wine, which was billed as New York City's first raw food fine-dining restaurant. It became a celebrity hotspot, drawing the likes of Bill Clinton, Tom Brady, Alec Baldwin and Owen Wilson. 

Sarma Melngailis in the kitchen of Pure Food and Wine

(Image credit: Netflix)

In 2011, she met Anthony Strangis, a man she'd connected with over Twitter and who went by various names, like Shane Fox. They got married a year later. He promised to help her with financial issues and make her dog immortal (seriously!). In return, Melngailis began siphoning money from the restaurant to give him.

According to Vanity Fair, she "transferred more than $1.6 million from her business accounts to her personal bank account, and Strangis spent $1.2 million of this money at Connecticut casinos."

In 2015, Pure Food and Wine's employees walked out over unpaid wages. The restaurant completely shut down for good not long after. Meanwhile, Melngailis and Strangis were fugitives on the run from the authorities. They were eventually found and arrested in a Tennessee hotel after Strangis ordered a pizza using his real name.

Prosecutors charged them with grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, and a scheme to defraud. Melngailis made a plea bargain and received a six-month sentence, including four months of jail time and five years probation. Strangis served one year in prison and was ordered to pay restitution to investors.

After serving her time, the former chef filed for divorce in 2018. In an interview with The New York Post, she admitted to eating chicken in prison. Melngailis now runs a personal website Sarma Raw, where she tells her story, and is active on social media. 

Bad Vegan reviews

So far, Bad Vegan has a rating of 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, though that's with just 15 reviews. It doesn't have a critics consensus yet, but the reviews that have come in are all positive. 

Vox's Alissa Wilkinson writes, "Bad Vegan paces its reveals expertly, so every time you kind of think you know where this is going, it takes a screeching left turn."

Variety's review says, "From the enigma of what motivates us to a rise-and-fall narrative to — yes — the pleasures of schadenfreude, the materials for a fascinating tale are here"

Joel Keller of Decider wishes Bad Vegan "was less one-sided, but at least the side we see makes for an entertaining story."

Slashfilm's Chris Evangelista writes, "The twists and turns will keep you hooked, but that doesn't mean Bad Vegan is some stunning success. It's actually rather formulaic. But the story is so darn wild it's hard to resist."

Jeanine T. Abraham of Black Girl Nerds says, "I gotta admit, it is entertaining to watch and be outraged by all of Sarma and Anthony’s foolish hijinks and seeing a pious stealing vegan have to deal with the consequences of her actions."

Looking for what to watch next? Your list of things to watch this week is pretty stacked.  Netflix's big event of the week is the Bridgerton season 2 release date and time — but it also just released the first official Stranger Things 4 photos, which show a shift to a horror vibe. 

Trying to find something else to watch? Atlanta season 3 is coming and it's almost time to watch Olivia Rodrigo's driving home 2 u. Apple TV Plus' biggest new show is about to debut, so mark the Pachinko release date and time in your digital calendar.

And for those preparing for to watch the Oscars 2022 live streams, but are still catching up or rewatching the biggest films? We have some advice: watch West Side Story on Disney Plus — and not HBO Max for a couple of key reasons. 

But two other huge shows are coming up as well, so check out our previews for Atlanta season 3 and how to watch the Halo TV series too. In other streaming news, HBO Max is going to be the home of an MCU movie finally hitting streaming. Yes, we're looking at Disney Plus with the same "What the heck!?" expression you are.

Kelly Woo
Streaming Editor

Kelly is the streaming channel editor for Tom’s Guide, so basically, she watches TV for a living. Previously, she was a freelance entertainment writer for Yahoo, Vulture, TV Guide and other outlets. When she’s not watching TV and movies for work, she’s watching them for fun, seeing live music, writing songs, knitting and gardening.

  • Rufionn
    I find I have not yet agreed with any Rotten Tomatoes reviews. A good review on Rotten Tomatoes does not intrigue me - it's a turn off.