Exploring the Culinary Culture of Madison, Wisconsin and Surrounding Area

Spotlight on Chef Thoney Clarke of Cafe Costa Rica

By on February 1, 2010 in Events, Flavors of Madison with 0 Comments

Chef Thoney Clarke and Cafe Costa Rica will be participating in this year’s American Liver Foundation Flavors of Madison event, taking place on February 28,2010.

Located on a lower level space on Butler Street, Cafe Costa Rica might be easy to miss – but that would be a big mistake.  Chef Clarke has created a flavorful, colorful and unique menu that transports the diner to the Caribbean. 

Chef Clarke would like Madison to know that Cafe Costa Rica is “absolutely real in every sense of the word.  It is a  must-see little place.”

Starting out as the well-known Mango Man, Chef Clarke has operated a popular food cart in Madison since 2003.  But in 2005 the opportunity to open Cafe Costa Rica fell into his lap.

“This place found me, I didn’t find it,” stated the chef.  The former occupant of the space was a friend of his, and he insisted that the only person he’d sell the business to was Thoney Clarke.  Along the way, he’s been helped by many people.  “I thought that people who wanted to help did not exist, but there are people who do want to help, with no strings attached.  It is a beautiful thing.”

He still runs the food cart, and he takes great pride in the restaurant that he’s built up.  Born of Jamaican parents, he was born and raised on the east coast of Costa Rica.  One of eleven children, Chef Clarke credits his mother for where he is today.  “She was a strong lady who ran the family like an army.  She was a single mom and everything that I cook is based on what she taught me.  She had to teach every single one of us how to cook and take care of the house while she was out struggling for our family.”

Now the father of a young daughter, he believes that responsibility to his family must be a top priority.  “What brought me here was family,” he said.  “I have to be responsible.  My dad wasn’t, and I am trying to break that chain.”

Chef Thoney is also an accomplished bass player, harmonica player and showman who loves to make people smile.  “This will be my third year participating in the Flavors of Madison.  There are a million ways to give back, you know?  I’m all over that.”

Photography by SucculentPhotography.com

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