Pure Food and Wine was a raw food vegan restaurant that opened in Manhattan, New York, in 2004. It quickly became a popular hot spot for celebrities and turned out to be a successful venture for co-founder Sarma Melngailis. Netflix’s ‘Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives.’ delves into how the business went off the rails and the reasons behind Sarma suddenly leaving New York and spending nearly a year on the run. But before that happened, Pure Food and Wine’s executive chef, Nikki King Bennett, was instrumental to the restaurant’s increasing popularity. So, if you’re curious to know more about her, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Nikki King Bennett?
Growing up, some of Nikki’s fondest memories included her father taking care of their vegetable garden and her mother cooking them Southern-style meals at home. These home-cooked meals had a significant effect on Nikki, helping her better understand the importance of a healthy diet. She decided to become a vegan during her teens, adding, “I learned how much my decisions around food altered my health and happiness.”
She moved to New York City, New York, to study at the Natural Gourmet Institute and graduated in 2008. Eventually, Nikki was promoted to executive chef at Pure Food and Wine, a restaurant with novel menu ideas back then. On the show, she mentioned how the eatery was ahead of its time, providing a fine-dining vegan experience that was unheard of when it opened. This meant that Nikki got to cook for many celebrities like Stevie Wonder, Janet Jackson, Tom Brady, and Gisele Bundchen, among others.
However, the restaurant had its fair share of troubles when the staff wasn’t paid for a while in 2014. In the docuseries, Nikki said that she might have initiated the employee walkout at the time because she was the leader of the kitchen. Despite trying to reach Sarma, there was no response, leading to the employees leaving. While that situation was resolved quickly, something similar happened in January 2015, when the staff wasn’t paid wages during the holiday season. This time around, Nikki felt that nothing changed, and the communication with Sarma wasn’t ideal, leading to everyone leaving their job and the restaurant closing down.
Where is Nikki King Bennett Now?
After her stint at Pure Food and Wine, Nikki worked as the executive chef at Plantable in New York City. After over four and a half years there, she founded Mostly Vegan, aiming to make plant-based cuisine accessible to everyone. Apart from catering and consulting, Nikki is also involved with training and content development. Her philosophy has always been to keep things simple and make sure the food tasted good.
Mostly Vegan is based out of Brooklyn, New York City, and Nikki seems to live in the city as well. She recently returned from a four-month stint on a sailboat, introducing plant-based food to the North Fork Peninsula in Long Island, New York. Regarding the recent uptick in plant-based cuisine’s popularity, Nikki said, “More and more, I see people who are open to trying a vegetable-centric diet. It’s good for us as people, it’s good for animals, and it’s good for the planet. I think it’s more than a trend; it’s a paradigm shift in how we perceive what goes in our bodies.”
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