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For Kristina Addington, transitioning to a vegan lifestyle is about more than what she eats: it’s about self expression. Her ever-changing bold hair color and bright My Little Pony tattoos symbolize Kristina’s carefree, happy attitude — and she is adding a colorful spin to the vegan food she prepares as owner of V-Grits. “I think people tend to see veganism as a restrictive lifestyle, but I feel the opposite. It lets me be who I really want to be and talk to people about all of the benefits of being this way. It made me realize that my own personal values are more important to me than what other people might think.”

 Her passion for vegan food led to the opportunity of a lifetime. “I’ve always loved to cook,” says Kristina, who has been a vegan for 12 years. After spending a couple of semesters at Sullivan Culinary Institute and working for a nonprofit animal welfare organization, she took a big step. Kristina applied to be a contestant on Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen on a whim. Each contestant is given $25,000 to either spend helping themselves or to sabotage their opponents. Not only did she win, but Kristina earned the distinction of being the first plant-based chef to ever win.

 She used her prize money to buy a food truck and named her business V-Grits, an acronym for Vegan Girl Raised In The South. Southern cuisine is V-Grits’ specialty, and its loaded mac and cheese is one of the most popular dishes on the menu.   

Kristina has been operating V-Grits as a food truck since 2014, but has been looking to open a restaurant for two years. Finding a location had been an uphill battle until Shawn Steele, one of Kristina’s friends who wanted to open a brewery, came up with a solution. “We decided to go in together, and within two months of talking to him about it we found the location we are in now,” she says.   

 V-Grits the restaurant, scheduled to open at the end of the summer, will be located on Barret Avenue in the former Monkey Wrench building. Kristina says the restaurant will have white tile along with a comfortable, sleek atmosphere. “I want people to feel like this is somewhere they would enjoy hanging out.” Although V-Grits and False Idol Independent Brewers will be operating as two separate businesses in the same building, the layout of the space will look and feel like one business.     

 Kristina says she is looking forward to including healthier, whole food plant-based meals on her menu and plans to offer more fresh, hearty salads, vegetable-based entrees, and lighter options. She is also excited about taking her business to the next level. “My favorite thing is working with people face to face and with a food trunk we had that. “I love to talk about if they are vegan or if they are interested in eating vegan, and opening a restaurant will allow me to be able to keep doing that.”

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