Ivy Alvarado was making a sandwich when her body hit the ground.
The now 28-year-old San Luis Obispo local went into cardiac arrest more than 10 years ago while working at Subway, which left her in a coma for 10 days. After a long recovery, Alvarado decided to combine her fascination with food and people by creating Plant Ivy, a vegetarian food truck that specializes in one of the most popular meatless hamburgers: The Impossible Burger.
“A lot of people would still be in bed,” Alvarado’s mother, Melinda said. “I would still be in bed crying about it, but she pushed through it. She’s always positive.”
Through consistent physical, occupational and speech therapy, Alvarado managed to go from a vegetative state to being able to function better than the doctors anticipated. Ivy went on to finish high school and take business classes at Cuesta College.
One class in particular, her entrepreneurship class, sparked her interest. Alvarado played around with the idea of opening her own coffee shop and making jewelry, but after attending Central Coast Veg Fest, she noticed that none of the food trucks were from San Luis Obispo County. As a local and a long-term vegetarian herself, a light bulb turned on.
“Oh my gosh, this is my niche,” Alvarado said.
Two years later, her idea became a reality. She now owns the only food truck in California that is wheelchair accessible. The truck was built by LA Custom Food Trucks, a food truck builder and manufacturer in Southern California.
Besides the railings and the wheelchair accessible seat, the Plant Ivy vehicle looks like any other food truck. The cream-colored truck has a window to order and pick-up, a kitchen visible through the windows, and is decorated with the words “Plant Ivy,” accompanied by an illustrated burger with leaves in and around it on the side of the truck. Staying true to its environmental-themed exterior, the burgers that are made inside the truck revolve around plants, but are disguised as meat.
“I ordered the nachos and I remember taking my first bite and instantly knew this was going to be something huge,” Sous Chef Zarah Wirt wrote in an email to Mustang News. “It’s much more than just a food truck.”
Ranging from gourmet hamburgers to nachos, every protein-based ingredient mimics the taste and look of its meat alternative. This was exactly Alvarado’s goal. Through careful selection of her menu items, Alvarado said she strives to convince people that plant-based food can be just as tasty as meat.
“The most rewarding part is when I get to convert someone who eats meat, and then they see that veganism isn’t all that bad,” Alvarado said.
Plant Ivy is not just about changing tastes. Alvarado has made it her mission to not only provide for herself, but to give back through her business. With each burger sold, a donation is made to Alternative Neurological Solutions, a non-profit organization that focuses on providing solutions and treatment to people who suffer from neurological issues.
Alvarado does not want to stop there. She said she hopes to expand her menu, hire employees with disabilities and possibly open a restaurant in the future.
Assisting Alvarado in this vision is her mother, Melinda. As Alvarado’s support system, she has seen firsthand how the cardiac arrest has affected her daughter’s life and watched her transformation.
“From one day driving a car that ran on used vegetable oil and starting the environmental club at her high school, to not being able to even sit up and not being able to talk, and not being able to eat in just a matter of an instant. It’s amazing what she’s done,” Melinda said.
Not only is Melinda Alvarado’s mother, but she is also her business partner.
“It’s what makes me get up in the morning,” Melinda said. “I’m really proud of her.”
The growth of the food truck industry is expected to reach nearly one billion dollars in 2020, according to Statista. As the industry grows, Plant Ivy plans to grow with it.
“I wholeheartedly believe anything is possible, and Plant Ivy is proof,” Wirt wrote.