At the corner of Elvis Presley Boulevard and Shelby Drive, the sound of smooth R&B, reggae and old-school hip hop blast from a bright, yellow school bus. Once you pass the open doors, a mouth-watering aroma of rich spices hits you immediately.
It’s The Speed Vegan “Unbelievable Burgers” Magic Food Bus and this unique food truck is serving up some meatless wonders that will have you asking yourself, “You sure this is vegan?”
Owners, 48-year-old Powwah (pronounced “power”) and Phu’Cha (pronounced “future”), were first introduced to vegan cooking by their parents. Later, after a trip to Los Angeles, the couple slowly started to eliminate meat and dairy from their diet and were vegetarians. They have now been vegan for five years.
“We started going to Africa in 2007…we saw that our health was much better because we were eating local food,” said Phu’Cha.
So, the couple started cooking up vegan dishes and sharing their recipes with the community. They opened the food bus in May of 2019 in response to strong community demand.
“It was divine alignment!” said Powwah, laughing.
“When we first started out, we were just selling plates,” Phu’Cha added. “We did a lot of events — poetry and music events — and we were always cooking. The people who were coming to the shows were enjoying the food. They kept saying ‘This is so good, ya’ll need a food truck or bus or something!’ So, our clients and the people who supported us funded [our bus.] That’s why we are standing here today! It’s not because of anything else. It’s because they asked for it, they funded it and voilà — we got a full, mobile kitchen!”
Now, they want to bring their vegan cuisine to the Whitehaven community and Memphis as a whole. Although they were encouraged to bring their vegan food bus to other neighborhoods, the couple insisted that Whitehaven deserved plant-based options at a fast pace. Their food bus adds to a growing number of healthier options in the Whitehaven area, including Smooth Living, ElectroLyfe, and Trap Fusion, that are all black-owned and locally owned.
“Instead of black people having to go to Midtown, Downtown or Cordova, they can come right outside and bypass [fast food] and come straight here,” said Powwah.
In the future, the couple plans to expand and have buses in different parts of the city. They want to bring their best sellers, like their Full Speed Unbelievable Burgers, to all Memphians and encourage them to choose healthier options without sacrificing taste.
“We’ve always been cooks,” said Phu’Cha. “But we started changing what we cooked. We learned what to substitute [in order] to make the same good soul food and stuff that we’re used to. But [we] use the best ingredients that were safe.”
The menu boasts vegan Po’Boys, Barbecue Sandwiches and Cheese Burgers. They also offer an array of freshly squeezed juices.
“Folks want food that’s cooked with love,” said Phu’Cha.
“I incorporate more seasonings and spices into my food,” she added. “[People] can be bought and sold if the food tastes good!”
In addition to spices, customers can expect all-natural ingredients — like molasses, agave syrup, and spelt flour, — and no added sugar or salt.
“We really care about people’s health…so we depend on seasoning to actually give the [food] flavor,” Phu’Cha said.
The duo hopes that they can also pass on their vegan lifestyle to their family. Everyone — from their niece to their grandson– pitch in to help support the food bus as well as their brick-and-mortar natural hair salon, Nappi by Nature, also on Shelby Drive in the same shopping center.
“Speed Vegan is just another branch of natural living and doing things naturally. That’s what we are pushing for!,” said Phu’Cha.