Essence puts Atlanta food power couple on cover

Slutty Vegan and Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks entrepreneurs featured in special edition of Essence magazine

Aisha “Pinky” Cole started Slutty Vegan as a mobile food service before it opened a brick-and-mortar store in Atlanta's Westview neighborhood in 2019.

The cover of the latest issue of Essence Magazine features a pair of Atlanta restaurateurs, and inside they dish about their love of food, community, each other and how they turned their multimillion-dollar business into a family affair.

Pinky Cole, the brains behind iconic Atlanta vegan restaurant Slutty Vegan, shares the cover with her partner Derrick Hayes of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks. It is the first time the magazine has featured restauranteurs on its cover, which Essence says is “part of a new special edition, highlighting Black couples who bet on love and business.”

“What’s better than one millionaire, two! Pinky Cole, of Slutty Vegan and Derrick Hayes, of Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks are the first restauranteurs to grace the cover of ESSENCE,” the magazine wrote in an Instagram post.

“Our January/February cover stars are setting the tone for dreamers turned doers and proving that perseverance pays off,” the post continued.

In the cover story, the power couple made it clear to Essence that their businesses are about being of and for the people, not just about food.

“We are able to use this one thing over everything, and that’s love — not just for ourselves, but for the community,” Hayes told the magazine, recalling how he immediately went into service mode when the pandemic struck, feeding frontline workers at nearly 40 hospitals across metro Atlanta.

Cole added, “And to give back in the name of Rayshard Brooks, we partnered with Clark Atlanta to provide $600,000 worth of scholarships for kids, and a brand-new car and life insurance for his family.”

Slutty Vegan has three locations, and according to Essence, Cole “is scheduled to open a new Slutty Vegan every month this year in a different city.” Big Dave’s Cheesesteaks has two locations, one in Downtown Atlanta and another in Doraville. The duo also have a joint concept called Dinkies, located inside Bar Vegan at Ponce City Market.