Atlanta probably isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you think of a vegan revolution. But thanks to Pinky Cole and her plant-based burger food truck, the Slutty Vegan, Atlanta is making a huge blip on the herbivore radar.
After six months of immense and still growing demand (which included four-hour-long waits and celebrity support from stars such as Tiffany Haddish, Jermaine Dupri and Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms), Cole recently opened her first Slutty Vegan brick-and-mortar on Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard in Atlanta. And while the words “Southern vegan hotspot” would surprise a few, arguably no one is as surprised by this sudden success than Cole herself.
“I never went to culinary school. I actually have a background in TV. I’ve been in television for ten years, but I have always enjoyed cooking,” says Cole, who worked as a casting director on Iyanla: Fix My Life. “I came from a family of Jamaicans, so if you didn’t know how to cook, you’d get the side eye.”
Cole actually had an earlier foray into the food industry, opening a non-vegan Jamaican restaurant in New York in 2014. After a fire, she ended up shuttering that business for good. Yet, Cole would find herself being called back into the restaurant industry. And this time, though not making the standard island fare, she would still call on her Jamaican roots for her new start.
“I grew up in a Jamaican household. My mother was a Rastafarian, so she didn’t eat meat, so I was introduced to the lifestyle early on,” says Cole, who decided to commit to veganism in 2014. “I just continued on that journey.”
The Ital diet of Rastafarian culture would shape how she looked at food as it related to her wellbeing and health. And now part of her quest, through Slutty Vegan, is to educate communities on the healing benefits of food. Even it’s simply introducing meat eaters to what she terms as “vegan junk food,” it’s a step in the right direction, she says.
And it appears to be working. Cole admits the overwhelming majority of Slutty Vegan customers are curious carnivores, who were willing to spend hours in line to see if a vegan burger could really taste as good as it’s been touted. And the reviews are positive—very positive.
Coincidentally, one of the menu favorites circles back again to her Jamaican roots—the Dancehall Queen burger, which features the Impossible Burger patty topped with plantain and jerk sauce.