One night at a time, Pinky Cole is changing the way we view late night vegan food. In under a year, Cole’s infamous food truck Slutty Vegan has taken Atlanta by storm.
Alone, the “ghost” food truck commands scores of people, who stand in line for hours just to get a taste, wherever its Instagram account announces the truck will be located each afternoon. Popular locations have included the Howell Mill Food Truck Park and former South Dekalb Mall.
Each day, around 3 p.m. the lines start forming, shortly after the location announcement is made. Within hours, the lines easily exceed 500 people or more, hungrily and excitedly waiting for a chance to cop one of the food truck’s insanely popular menu items.
Cole’s short-term success has afforded her the ability to open a brick and mortar version of the food truck, located at 1542 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd., in Atlanta’s Westview neighborhood. The new restaurant will open on Sunday, Jan. 13 in the Westview Village near I-285.
A block party with fanfare and support from many of Slutty Vegan’s new neighbors will welcome throngs of the food truck’s most loyal fans to its doors, where diners can now flock to, to enjoy menu favorites like the Sloppy Toppy, an Impossible burger topped with pickled jalapenos and a spicy vegan mayo, or the One Night Stand, an Impossible burger with lettuce, tomatoes, onions and slices of vegan bacon.
Using 100 percent plant-based ingredients, Cole and Slutty Vegan have managed to get the city excited about her unique brand of vegan fast food. In some ways, this new chapter has come full circle for the U.S.-born daughter of Jamaican immigrants.
Cole, who grew up in Baltimore as the youngest of ten children, she said she knew she was always destined to be an entrepreneur.
“The day I was born, my father was sentenced to 20 years in prison,” Cole said. “That left my mother to work four jobs to keep the lights on. I knew then I didn’t want my mother to have to work her whole life. I had to have my own business.”
So, at the ripe age of 14, Cole began her start in entrepreneurship by re-selling fast food burgers to her friends in high school. She then moved on to make nearly $4,000 per week by becoming the youngest party promoter in Baltimore at the age of 16.
But, she knew college was in her future after one day watching Atlanta’s own Ludacris crashing the campus of Clark Atlanta University on a BET program. Cole proclaimed that day, “I’m going to college there.”
Not, only did Cole attend Clark Atlanta, she also pledged Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., in 2007, was elected “Miss Clark Atlanta” in 2008.
In 2009, Cole became the first college graduate in her family, earning a bachelor’s degree in mass media arts.
Upon leaving CAU, Cole tapped into the school’s alumni network and landed a job as a production assistant in Los Angeles. With hard work and drive, Cole quickly moved into the producer chair.
Fortunately, life in the television industry pushed Cole to be better than good enough. She felt the entrepreneurship bug biting again.
“Making a lot of money as a TV producer, I decided I wanted to open up my own business,” Cole said. “So, I opened my first restaurant called, Pinky’s Jamaican and American Restaurant.
“There was a line out the door, just like it is at the food truck. It’s just favor,” she reminisced.
After two years of great success with the Harlem-based restaurant and juice bar, Pinky experienced the most life-changing tragedy: her restaurant burned down.
“Losing everything, my car, my home, and damn near my mind taught me that I am resilient. It was the best and worst experience of my life” Cole said.
Shortly the incident, Cole fell into depression and felt like a failure. But, of course, that setback wouldn’t be the end of Cole’s story.
However, she surprisingly received a call from the OWN television show “Iyanla Fix My Life” to be the casting director.
“It’s crazy because as I was being a vessel to heal people; I was being healed,” said Cole, referring to her early days of joining the hit television show.
Eventually, the show moved production to Atlanta, and as a member of the team, Cole was she asked to move too.
“Atlanta is like my second home. So, when the announcement was made I thought of it as a homecoming,” Cole said.
Upon her return to Atlanta, Cole quickly realized that she and other vegans in the city of Atlanta were not able to find late night vegan food options.
It took one night of Cole sitting in her two-bedroom apartment to birth the idea of Slutty Vegan.
“I wanted to create something for vegans and non-vegans alike,” she explained. “I wanted to meet them and reach the people where they are.
“So, I started trying recipes and naming the burgers with fun names such as sloppy toppy, one night stand, fussy hussy and the list goes on.”
With time, Cole perfected her recipes and moved into her first commercial kitchen. In her first week of business, she sold four burgers. Suddenly, familiar feelings of doubt and sadness returned.
“Sitting in that commercial kitchen with four customers, I had to ask God, ‘What are you trying to show me? I’ve been through a lot with my previous restaurant, I cannot have that happen again,’” she pled with herself.
“‘But, I’m going to walk through this walk and know you have something big in store for me. I’m going to trust you and know that you’re going to work when I get back.’”
The next week, she opened and served 100 people.
“It was the best feeling in the world and the rest is history-Literally! ” Cole confessed.
Cole credited Dymetra Pernell, owner of Plant-Based Princess, for helping her get her started using social media. Today, “Sutty Vegan” has more 70,000 followers on Instagram.
“If Slutty Vegan closed today, I know that we made history,” Cole said. “I’m excited about the expansion, about providing equity to my staff, being able to show love to the people that have been with me from day one is a big deal to me.”