Meet the Women Behind Atlanta’s Amazing Dessert Trucks
Atlanta has long been home to an outstanding food scene—nine James Beard Award-winning restaurants, to be exact—and not just for traditional Southern fare. When planning a trip to the “city in a forest,” deciding where to eat is just as important as deciding what to see, and the options are extensive. This summer, some of the most exciting bites are coming out of the city’s blossoming food truck scene, and women are at the helm.
This year, Georgia ranked second in new businesses owned by women, according to an American Express study, and in Atlanta, women especially are finding success with dessert food trucks. What was once considered domestic work is turning women like Cora Cotrim, owner of the Atlanta-based gourmet ice cream shop Queen of Cream, into vibrant small business owners. Cotrim started her business in 2013 with one ice cream cart, and now she has a truck, a few carts, a physical location in Inman Park, and another one slated to open this summer. She uses unexpected ingredients to create everything from her popular sprinkle cookie flavor to lavender honeycomb, with seasonal favorites like strawberry chamomile.
“The number one thing that goes into flavors is local seasonality of produce and local relationships with other specialty food makers,” says Cotrim. “We like to showcase both, and play with modern takes on classic flavors, or recreating popular dessert items into ice cream scoops.”
Cotrim is in good company. That level of invention and investment in ingredients is a big part of what makes these Atlanta-area dessert trucks so special. As the temperature rises, popular festivals return and community food truck nights kick off, making it the perfect season to indulge outdoors. The next time you’re in Atlanta, be sure to visit these women-powered food trucks for a sweet treat.
New Orleans native Channon “Chay” Powell had no intention of being a candy maker. Her father owned a shop when was young, making taffy and pralines, but she chose a different route—working in telecommunications for years. But, after a company layoff she went back to what she knew. At first it started as a quick way to make ends meet, but after her father lost his battle with cancer in 2006, it became a way to share his recipes with the masses. Today, she and her brother Jason operate ChayJ’s with their father’s tasty praline syrup as the basis for most of their delectable desserts.
What to Try: Buttery and crunchy praline pretzels and praline popcorn that melt in your mouth.
Kim Burnett also started her food truck in order to celebrate her mother Jean’s decadent Southern recipes. They started their business in November 2011 in Indiana as a hobby; her mother did all of the baking, while she focused on marketing. A year later, Ms. Jean entered a baking contest to be a vendor in the 2012 Super Bowl village, which was held in Indianapolis, and she won a spot with peach cobbler and bread pudding. They purchased a truck from Purdue University, worked the Super Bowl, and their popularity took off. Three years later, Kim relocated the business to Atlanta after the declining auto industry made it hard to stay in Indiana, but her mom stayed behind.
Burnett partnered with Prep Atlanta and started booking events, but she encountered a setback when she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. That’s when her mom, who is also a breast cancer survivor, moved to Atlanta to continue her namesake. Today, they’re both cancer free (symbolized by a pink ribbon on the truck) and serving up sweets everywhere from weddings to the set of Fox’s MacGyver and The Resident.
“My food truck community stepped in,” Burnett says. “People from other businesses would say ‘I got you’ and helped us get the truck to events. I was down for six months, but [Sweet Jeanius] never missed a beat.”
What to Try: Brownie turtle sundae, which starts with a scratch cake brownie, and the refreshing, old-fashioned strawberry shortcake made with a vanilla biscuit, fresh strawberries, and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Stacie Antich-Rodriguez and her husband, Manny, relocated from Miami to Atlanta in 2007 because of rising housing prices. But when they arrived, they realized that they missed the flavors of home, most notably arroz con leche, flan, and other Cuban desserts that were easy to find in Miami. Stacie got in the kitchen and started baking pastries at night while working as a video editor on a television show during the day. Then, three years ago they started working the farmer’s market at Piedmont Park and buzz turned into a business.
“We make as much as possible from scratch,” Antich-Rodriguez says. “My favorite thing is when people say, ‘it’s just like back home,’ or ‘that’s how my mom used to make it.’ That’s the hole we try to fill.”
What to Try: The guava preserves and cream cheese pastry is perfect at any time of day, and so is her husband Manny’s Cuban sandwich of slow-roasted pork in a homemade mojo marinade.
Like Stacie, Elisabeth Roiret started Lisa’s Creperie in an effort to fill a hole in the market. Roiret spent her early childhood in Corsica, France, and after moving to the U.S. she missed the crepes that were so easy to find on the streets of her hometown. She started making them in the U.S. Navy as a fundraiser while she was stationed in Coronado, C.A., and after serving four years, she found herself asking, “What next?” Now, she operates a charming Parisian-themed truck and just opened her first permanent location in Senoia, Georgia—the town used for the setting of The Walking Dead. She says that the key to a good crepe is in the batter.
What to Try: You can’t go wrong with the nutella and strawberries or The Paris, which features shaved turkey, bacon, green apples, and brie drizzled with raspberry jam.
Shiana White says that if you can run a household, you can run a business, so she combined her love of baking and fashion into a custom cookie truck. The mom of four moved from Los Angeles to Atlanta six years ago and purchased her aquamarine truck three years later. The idea behind A Haute Cookie is that “it’s like an outfit—every day you can dress your cookie up in something different.” Her signature flavors include classics with a twist—think red velvet chocolate chip, plus more adventurous flavors like chocolate chip with Lay’s potato chips baked inside. The model-turned-baker says that her goal is to become a household name like Biscoff.
What to Try: The white chocolate sugar cookie ice cream sandwich is a favorite for a reason, and you can’t go wrong with the chocolate chunk cookies, which also come in a vegan option.
Be sure to follow and find these Atlanta food truck gems: Buena Gente Cuban Bakery @buenagenteatl, ChayJ’s @chayjs, Chillybean Coffee Co. @chillybean_coffee_co, A Haute Cookie @ahautecookie, Kristi’s Heavenly Cobbler @kristis_cobbler, Lisa’s Creperie @lisas.creperie, Mocha Pops @mochapops, Queen of Cream @queenofcreamatl, and Sweet Jeanius @sweet_jeanius.