Minute on the clock: YolanDa Brown, founder of Soul Mama

16 August 2023 by
Minute on the clock: YolanDa Brown, founder of Soul Mama

Soul Mama's founder is preparing to combine music and food in her first bricks-and-mortar restaurant

What made you want to enter the world of food and hospitality after coming from a music background?

Music and food have always been two great passions of mine. I've seen first-hand how both can bring people together, inspire, and create lasting memories. Music tells stories, and so does food. I wanted to create a space where these two worlds intersect, where we can nourish not just our bodies, but our souls too. The motto of Soul Mama is ‘feed your soul', and creating Soul Mama was a beautiful opportunity to create that sense of togetherness.

What was your experience of food and cooking before starting Soul Mama?

Food has always played a significant role in my life with many unforgettable moments shared with friends and family around a table. Growing up in a Jamaican household, recipes are passed down from generations, understanding that cooking is not just about ingredients but it's also about history and tradition. I am a big foodie and love exploring restaurants and different cuisines around the world when I tour with my music. As for my cooking, I enjoy cooking especially Spanish cuisine.

Why do you think live music and food go so well together?

Bob Marley said: "One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." And Oscar Wilde said: "After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations."

Both food and music touch our souls and are universal languages. They can evoke emotions, tell stories, and connect people from all walks of life. When combined, the shared experience of enjoying delicious food while immersing oneself in live music creates a sense of unity and joy that's truly special.

How are the preparations going for the autumn opening of Soul Mama?

We're putting our heart and soul into creating a space that encapsulates our vision of community, love and joy.

We are going through all the planning and licensing, meticulously choosing our menu, ensuring our dishes are authentic and represent the cultural richness we aim to showcase, curating an eclectic line up of performers across many genres such as jazz, reggae, soul and more, screaming from the rooftops to everyone about Soul Mama.

Your menu is diverse, including African, the Caribbean and South American dishes – what chefs are you bringing in to do this?

We have assembled a team of talented chefs with diverse backgrounds who have a deep understanding of the traditional flavours from Africa, the Caribbean and South America. They are passionate about preserving the authenticity of the cuisines while adding their own unique flair. They bring in a wealth of experience and creativity to our kitchen, and we're incredibly excited about the dishes they're crafting.

What dishes will we see on the menu?

Everyone wants to know the answer to this question, but the truth is that we are still crafting the menu. We have a wide choice, but also need to make sure that it is balanced menu, packed with flavour, able to be prepared at speed and at a good price point. As for the mama element, everyone loves mama's cooking, there is something about it that just makes it special, and we found out what the secret ingredient is... it is cooked with love! We went on a journey around the world and sat with many special mamas and cooked with them, laughed with them, and told them our dream to put mamas around the world in headlights and make their recipes famous! All I can tell you right now is that there will be plenty of plantain and plenty of soul.

Are there any hero dishes you can share with us?

Ok, I'll tell you one meal, Soul Mama's Magic Hot Pot. A dish that perfectly embodies the fusion of Africa, Caribbean and Brazilian flavours. Imagine, a slow cooked oxtail on a bed of rice, plantain, yam and vegetables. It's a vibrant, hearty dish with layers of flavour. I'm hungry now!

You fundraised almost £250,000 for your new restaurant and music venue – why did you go down the fundraising route to raise capital for your business?

The decision to fundraise for Soul Mama by crowdfunding was driven by traditional financial institutions not supporting our idea. Venture capitalists that we approached only wanted to come in after we had launched a couple of venues. We decided to connect with a group of people who wanted to join us in making history, creating more diversity in music venue ownership.

Now we have built and continue to grow a community of amazing people who will forever be a part of our journey. They will go on the founders' wall in our venue when we open. Their support validates our vision and gives us the motivation to create a space that will add joy, light and laughter to as many lives as possible.

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