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Sarma Melngailis Net Worth 2024

Sarma Melngailis Net Worth – $500,000

What is Sarma Melngailis’ net worth? Who was Sarma Melngailis married to?


Sarma Melngailis is an American convicted criminal, former chef, cookbook author, and businesswoman.

Melngailis came to prominence in not the best of ways. She’s the co-founding mastermind behind the popular vegan and raw food restaurants, “One Lucky Duck” and “Pure Food and Wine,” based out of New York City.

In 2015, she became a household name as the restauranteur who refused to pay her staff. That year, her staff walked out to never return due to unpaid wages.

Melngailis was convicted the following year.

sarma melngailis net worth

Sarma Melngailis and Kyle MacLachlan attend RAW FOOD real world book Launch at Pure Food and Wine – @Getty

The Origin Story

She was born on September 10, 1972, in the United States.

She spent her childhood in Newton, Massachusetts, raised by her Latvian father, who was a physicist, and her American mother, who was a professional chef.

When Sarma was a child, her mother co-founded “Alyson’s Orchard,” a 450-acre apple orchard. It’s safe to assume where Melngailis adopted her love for cooking.

The former restaurateur had a relatively normal childhood. She attended Newton North High School and graduated with good grades.

Melngailis then pursued further education by attending the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Like all new grads, she sought an entry-level career straight after her convocation.

First Job

Her life in New York City began in 1994 when she accepted a job at Bear Stearns, a global investment bank.

She resigned from the role two short years later and accepted a job in Boston, MA working for Bain Capital in their private equity investments department.

Melngailis left this role after two years to accept a more senior role at CIBC in their high-yield investment department.

Career Change to Become a Chef

While her resume was filled with any economics graduates’ dream jobs, these jobs weren’t fulfilling her.

As such, she left her role with CIBC in 1998 and went back to her roots.

Melngailis enrolled at New York’s French Culinary Institute and graduated in 1999, ready to take on New York’s world-renowned cooking scene.

While she was in culinary school, she met Matthew Kenney, a well-known American celebrity chef and restauranteur famous in the New York and Los Angeles plant-based restaurant industry.

Sarma Melngailis and boyfriend Matthew Kenney

Sarma Melngailis & Matthew Kenney – @Getty

The two hit it off and soon began dating.

As two cooking enthusiasts with a love for unique recipes, they opened “Commissary” in 2001. The restaurant was short-lived, closing down in March 2003.

Pure Food and Wine

In June 2004, Melngailis and Kenney took another shot at it, but this time with Jeffrey Chodorow’s.

They opened “Pure Food and Wine” as New York City’s first exclusive raw food restaurant.

Business relations were doing so well that they opened “One Lucky Duck Juice and Takeaway” in 2007.

It was a takeout store attached to Pure Food and Wine.

The company was established in 2005 but only as an online store.

Woody Harrelson, Sarma Melngailis, Matthew Kenney, and Jason Lewis – @Getty

The website went live in 2005 as a store for customers to purchase health supplements, books, apparel, home products, and healthy snacks prepared exclusively by Pure Food and Wine.

In 2009, Melngailis and Kenney had a dispute, resulting in her buying him out with a $2.1 million loan from Chodorow.

While things were looking up for her, her career came crashing down in 2015. “The Pure Food and Wine” restaurant permanently shut down in spring 2016.

The Staff of Both Restaurants Walked Out Due to Unpaid Wages

In January 2015, employees of both Pure Food and Wine and One Lucky Duck staged a mass walkout.

This was in response to Melngailis refusing to pay her employees a month’s one month’s wages, and this wasn’t the first time they had been short-changed for their hard work.

The first time was in July 2014, but that time it went quietly resolved.

Following the walkout, she went public to address their grievances and placed blame on slim margins that resulted from expensive ingredients.


No one was buying her excuse, however, because she previously told her employees that the reason for her inability to pay them on time was a result of her switching banks.

Despite the walkout, she reopened the doors to both establishments in April 2015.

She needed to rehire new employees because many of the previous ones did not return. Much to the same tune, in July of that same year, every staff member participated in yet another walkout due to unpaid wages.

This time Melngailis was not so lucky. Both her businesses could not survive her financial difficulties, and as such, they permanently closed.

Later, she said that “intentionally harming them is just about the last thing I’d have done.”

Runaway Fugitive

Melngailis evaded court dates and left New York City with her then-husband, Anthony Strangis.

In 2015, she was reported as a fugitive on the run, with authorities across the nation searching for her whereabouts.

Her hideaway ended on May 12, 2016, after the married couple ordered pizza from a motel in Sevierville, Tennessee.

They were both arrested and taken into police custody.

The disgraced restauranteur was charged with grand larceny, criminal tax fraud, violation of labor law, and a scheme to defraud.

Her family posted her $300,000 bond.

Nearly one year after her arrest, she was offered a plea deal where she could agree to serve one to three years in prison for her crimes committed.

Melngailis pleaded guilty in May 2017 to defrauding her investors of over $2 million, scheming to defraud, and criminal tax fraud.

Her jail sentence only lasted four months, and upon release, she filed for divorce from Strangis.

Sarma Melngailis – Husband

In December 2012, Sarma Melngailis married Anthony Strangis. The two met through their mutual pal, Alec Baldwin. Strangis served one year in prison for a scheme to defraud, criminal tax fraud, and grand larceny. In May 2018, Sarma filed for divorce from Strangis.

Netflix’s “Bad Vegan”

In 2022, her popularity inflated to a level she could never have imagined.

She was contacted by Netflix to film a docuseries about her relationship with Starngis and how it led to the failure of her businesses and her becoming a fugitive on the run.

She agreed, and “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.was born.

The docuseries premiered on Netflix America in March 2022.

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Sarma Melngailis – Net Worth 2024

So, how much is Sarma Melngailis worth? Melngailis earned most of her wealth from managing One Lucky Duck and Pure Food and Wine. Therefore, Sarma Melngailis has an estimated net worth of $500,000.

At some point, “Pure Food and Wine” used to have $500K annual profits with $7 million in revenue. But, she pleaded guilty to stealing more than $2 million from investors.

Sarma is also the author of Living Raw Food and Raw Food/Real World. On Amazon, Melngailis sold an estimated 50,000 copies of her books.

Melngailis was paid for “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.” However, the money went to her “former employees,” as she stated on her blog.

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