by Wyndi Kappes, Sunflower Photo by Drea Nicole Photography.
Rarely do chefs come along that completely change the cultural and food landscape. Pinky Cole has done just that. What started as a humble food truck has grown into a plant-based movement centered around the Slutty Vegan, a counter-service eatery in southwest Atlanta. One bite of its delectable and juicy vegan burgers and you’ll understand the hype that draws lines down the block and consistently brings celebrities like Queen Latifah, Snoop Dogg and Killer Mike in the door to be “sluttified.”
Q: Why the name Slutty Vegan?
Pinky Cole: It might seem risque but Slutty Vegan isn’t a reference to sex! I use it to describe the ultimate euphoric experience of eating the perfect vegan burger. We chose our language to make plant-based food more accessible — and, fundamentally, to break down barriers — since vegan food is normally associated with rich, white spaces. Sex and food are two of the most pleasurable experiences in life, so why not pique people’s interest with both?
Q: Were you ever worried about how the Slutty Vegan name might be received?
PC: No. My advice would be to always be yourself and own your room. Every room you walk into, you have to be so confident that people feel you before you walk in the door. If you own your room and you command the audience, then anything you want in this life, in business, personally, professionally, anything, you’re going to be able to get it.
Q: Slutty Vegan has accrued a cult following in the past few years. Outside of the delicious food, what do you attribute the brand’s success to?
Pinky Cole: I think much of Slutty Vegan’s success comes from our nontraditional marketing strategies. We have the best marketing team, and people love our social media presence. We show videos of our customers having the realest, rawest experience of chewing a burger and having an orgasm-like experience—but guilt-free. Slutty Vegan is a representation of everyone, and people love it.
Q: What is your advice for cooking vegan recipes that are as tasty and indulgent as Slutty Vegan?
PC: I use fresh herbs to spice up all of my meals. I believe I can make anything taste good. I use fresh herbs, pimento, coconut milk, Jamaican peppers, fresh garlic, vegetable bouillon, exotic mushrooms, and more to make my vegan food taste delicious. I primarily get all of my ingredients at local farmers markets around town, The Fresh Market, and Whole Foods.
Q: Tell us more about The Pinky Cole Foundation.
PC: My mother inspired my altruism that speaks to my identity and the work I do daily for The Pinky Cole Foundation. She came from Jamaica to this country when she was 17 and once she got here, she met my dad and — long story short — he ended up doing 22 years in prison. The whole time I was growing up she not only kept our house afloat but also helped others. We started The Pinky Cole Foundation in 2019 with her in mind and with the desire to empower young people of color to leverage economic opportunities, successful risk-taking and innovation. I’ve paid the rents of local business owners in the middle of the pandemic and partnered with the Department of Juvenile Justice to employ ex-juvenile offenders at Slutty Vegan. I’ve made a commitment to use my resources so that I can help as many young Black men get out of the system as early as possible and I think that more business owners should take the responsibility to do that. For more information on how you can help; visit pinkygivesback.com/donate.
Q: What’s next for you and Slutty Vegan?
PC: We recently opened Bar Vegan and are opening our first out-of-state location this year. I just welcomed a little boss baby into the Slutty Vegan family. I’m super excited about that. I’m also working on my first book and have TV shows in the works.
Pinky’s tips for those hoping to start their own food concept
Get unstuck. The beautiful part of being an entrepreneur is that you’re willing to take a risk, and it starts with your mind.
Know that with hard work, you can conquer anything in this life.
No doesn’t hurt! People will tell you “No” all the time. Entrepreneurs use “No” as motivation to do what they said you could not do.
Success is like mud. You keep throwing things at the wall; something will stick. If you want to be successful, keep throwing that thing at the wall and eventually, it will work out!
Be consistent in all you do and you will be successful.