Cooking and singing are as natural to Toni Malone as breathing, and sometimes the chanteuse’s two loves fit together and other times they operate independently.
Right now, cooking is in full force, as Malone is slowly rebuilding a business she closed years ago to go on the road to sing.
“I started Soul Burger 25 years ago, and I started on faith,” recalls Malone. “I started in Inglewood at Fifth and Manchester Avenues.”
A newly divorced mother of three, Malone said she needed extra income and decided to take a talent she had indulged in for years and turn it into an eating spot called Wynell’s.
A friend on her deathbed inspired Malone to try her hand at running a restaurant, even though she was clueless at the time about what it took to open and operate such a business.
“Teresa Bradford requested one of my famous burgers on her death bed,” recalls Malone, who after visiting her friend bought all the ingredients and took the burger to Bradford.
“She asked if there was some for later,” says Malone, who was a bit startled and amused by the request, but fulfilled it nonetheless.
Several days later Bradford died, and her son told Malone that the remains of a soul burger were by her bedside.
Remembering her friend’s whispered words that “there is so much soul in this burger, one day its going to rock the world,” Malone decided to take advantage of an opportunity to partner with a restaurateur and create Wynell’s.
Four years after she started, the yearning to sing and perform became so overpowering that Malone closed her restaurant. However, she took her show on the road and she continued to cook as she traveled the world performing, including a two-year stint doing a one-woman show, “It’s All About Love,” on the Radisson Seven Seas.
” I would turn my room into a kitchen,” explained Malone about how she continued cooking. “One day, the cast requested a burger . . . then the production crew had a burger, and from then on they made sure I had my own room with a kitchen,” remembers the singer with a laugh. “I would prepare meals, but mostly burgers.”
Then the recession hit, and work on the road became very difficult to secure, so Malone came home and turned her focus toward cooking full time. But this time, she is operating what is essentially a specialty catering business. People call in on Thursday, and she and her staff prepare and deliver the food the next day.
Operating this way is becoming just a bit overwhelming, and Malone said she is looking to eventually re-open a restaurant and then franchise her Soul Burgers concept.
Currently, Soul Burger features 13 different variations including the T-Burger named after her friend and inspiration–Teresa Bradford. These include chicken, fish, and veggie burgers as well as a dressing burger with cranberry sauce and stuffing.
Despite all the distinctive variations, Malone said her biggest sellers is still the original–turkey, with delicately cooked greens and yams for garnish and seasoned with her secret spice combination.