Kristina J. Addington grew up on classic Southern-style comfort food, and because she enjoyed cooking with her mother as a little girl, she always wanted to be a cook. One barrier: Eight years ago she went vegan, and as any native Kentuckian knows, the one staple of most Southern fare is meat.
But Addington isn’t letting that stop her. She’s taking money she won this past summer on The Food Channel’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” reality show and launching a first for Louisville: a vegan, Southern-cooking food truck.
Addington is currently saving and raising the balance of the money she’ll need via a Kickstarter campaign. She purchased a truck, but it needs plenty of work to get it where it needs to be. But she hopes to be serving vegan fare to Louisvillians by the end of November, if all goes well.
The 32-year-old has worked as a private chef (she is known as the Vegan Temptress) and also recently cooked her vegan wares for Harvest Coffee & Café in Shelbyville, but the food truck idea made sense for one very specific reason.
“I’ve always wanted to do some sort of food service,” she says. “But I wanted to be able to talk to people as well. I want to have the opportunity to interact with people and talk about where the food comes from, what the ingredients are. A food truck is the perfect way to do that.”
In fact, the most important aspect of her passion is education — Addington is more than just a vegan, she’s someone who strongly believes a vegan lifestyle is a healthier alternative to eating meat. She doesn’t come across as preachy, but she is always willing to educate anyone interested in a vegan lifestyle and what the benefits might be for them personally.
“My mom cooked pretty much three meals a day from scratch,” she says of growing up in Kentucky. “My family was always around the dinner table — that’s where we connected. It was a daily ritual.”
When she went vegan, she realized the same principles can apply — it’s just about using different ingredients. She enjoys sharing that, not just through recipes but also communication.
“You can tell someone you should eat healthier, but what they’re really hearing is that they’re doing something wrong,” she says. “I’m hoping the truck is the answer to get them to try this food and see how easy it is.”
To that end, V-Grits will offer a fairly compact menu that will rotate. One staple will be vegan chili; sure, it may sound like vegetable soup, but I’ve had it, and it has all the body and spice of chili, just sans animal flesh. But there is also her so-called Meaty Chili, featuring seitan to “amp it up.”
Another vegan spin on a Southern favorite will be a Kentucky Hot Brown, Southern Dip Style. It will feature roasted tomatoes and seitan bacon on Texas toast, with mornay sauce for dipping. Seitan is a wheat-based popular meat substitute that many restaurants use to stand in for hot wings.
Also, you’ll be able to get BBQ Sliders, made from jackfruit instead of pulled pork or chicken. Jackfruit, Addington explains, is a fruit with a texture that, when shredded, closely resembles pulled pork or tuna. The flavor comes from the seasoning and sauce. And she swears even a carnivore won’t know the difference.
“I’ve taken it to my family reunion, and they didn’t know,” she says. “Good stuff.”
Desserts will also be on the menu. She says price points for a vegan meal will be around $10 for an entrée and a side.
Of her experience on “Cutthroat Kitchen,” she says she was most surprised about the sabotage – part of the show is to sabotage the competition by taking away vital ingredients needed for their assigned dish, and some of them were ruthless. Addington’s three dishes were corn chowder, vegan gyros and ginger snaps. Unfortunately, however, one of her rivals left her with nothing but pickled ginger, the stuff you get with your sushi, for the final round.
“They weren’t super ‘snappy,’” she says, “but they tasted like ginger snaps.”
Apparently. Otherwise, she probably wouldn’t have walked away with the $18,500 in prize money — nor would she have been able to do her celebration dance or hopped up and down with the show hosts when she was told she was the winner.
But after surviving the sabotage, Addington is now trying to raise an additional $12,000 to get V-Grits truck rolling; as of this writing, she has Kickstarter pledges of just over $1,300, and the deadline is Nov. 20. Once she hits the mark, she’ll then hit the streets, spreading vegan cuisine and the word.
“It combines all my passions,” she says of her unique food truck idea. “Cooking, Southern food and talking to people about how to eat healthier.”