Oona Mackesey-Green
Northside Planning Council

After 15 years as a restaurateur and food cart owner in Madison, local chef Thony Clarke looks ahead to his next venture selling his signature sauces. Clarke closed his most recent restaurant, Café Costa Rica, two years ago, allowing him to focus on his food cart of the same name and freeing his time to begin sauce production. His Monte Verde and Mango Man salsas are available for purchase at FEED Kitchens on the Northside, where he produces the sauces and prepares food for his food cart.

For Clarke, food is community. He looks forward to allowing customers to bring the flavors of Café Costa Rica home with what he calls “Latin soul food in a bottle”. The sauces are versatile; full bodied with strong flavors, they serve as marinades, dips, salsas and sauces.

Clarke learned to cook as a child in Costa Rica, mastering the pitfalls of a famously finicky staple: rice. The chore of cooking evolved into an enterprising opportunity; Clarke marketed his mother’s homemade breads and pastries in the community, slowly building both a new income and lifelong passion.

Many of Clarke’s dishes still draw inspiration from his mother’s recipes. Stretching ingredients to feed Clarke and his eleven brothers and sisters, he recalls his mother transforming dishes like rice and beans into hearty meals. “She might only use a handful of different spices, but she could mix them perfectly to make each dish taste rich and unique.” Her distinctive rice and beans recipe has been a must-have on Clarke’s menu since his first restaurant in Madison opened in 2002.

Community remains a cornerstone of Clarke’s work. He is often found catering for local events like the Northside Community Suppers and the North Star Awards. Clarke will also serve food at the upcoming February International Festival at the Overture Center. Clarke has launched an Indiegogo campaign to invite community members who share his passion for local foods with global flavor to support his latest entrepreneurial endeavor as he scales up his operations.