Beloved Madison Chef Thony “Mango Man” Clarke, owner of the Café Costa Rica food cart and Mango Man Sauce line, was involved in a severe and scary car accident last Friday that totaled his car, left him shaken up and has significantly set him back from running his businesses that so many Madisonians love. His best friend, Tony Roman, wants to make sure that he’s able to get back on his feet, and so far, the Madison community, has been chipping in to help.
“He’s really sore right now. He’s realizing right now that he’s not his normal self and that’s definitely playing on him emotionally,” Roman tells Madison365. “The whole adrenaline overload has started to wear off a bit and the reality of the situation has really sunk in.”
Clarke was on his way back from stocking up at Restaurant Depot, a restaurant supply store in Monona, when he was T-boned at the intersection of Monona Drive and Pfaum Road on Madison’s southeast side.
“Pictures don’t do the damage justice. If he had a passenger in his car, that passenger would have not survived because that side of the car … the roof was crushed straight down,” Roman says. “And when Monona first responders got to the scene, they told him ‘You’re lucky to be alive. You should not be walking away from this. You should be pretty hurt.’ His Yukon was just a mess.”
Roman says that Clarke, who is not only famous for his food cart but for his line of delicious sauces that are available at Woodman’s and Willy Street Co-op, barely remembers getting hit. “The next thing you know, he woke up suspended from his seatbelt. Witnesses said he rolled two or three times from the force of the impact. He definitely blacked out for a little bit,” he says. Roman adds that healthwise Clarke is in rough shape. “His back and his whole body are sore and he’s having problems standing up for too long. After a car accident, sometimes it takes a while for your body to get back to its equilibrium where everything’s a little off. He’s at a stage right now where he’ll just kind of pause and be like, ‘where was it again?’”
Clarke’s totaled GMC Yukon was his primary way of toting his food truck around town.
“Being one of the first food carts in Madison, it was super over-engineered so it kind of weighs twice as much as what most normal modern food carts weigh,” Roman says. “So he has to have upgraded tow package on any vehicle he uses to move because it’s almost like 8,000 pounds, I believe.”
The GoFundMe that Roman set up will help Clarke get a new truck and get back on his feet.
“Realistically he needs something that’s strong enough and reliable enough. He can’t afford for it to be too new and he can’t afford for it to be too old,” Roman says. “For the GoFundMe, he just needs a somewhat newer but not totally brand new vehicle that has enclosed storage like big suburban or Yukon, which aren’t that cheap to start with … and they aren’t that easy to come by on the US market … especially right now.”
Money from the GoFundMe will also replace Clarke’s generator and the chef’s equipment and food that he lost in the accident.
“He had a loaded truck. But a lot of that food was not salvageable. He had just done his big shopping for two events and he was supposed to have the following two days on Saturday and Sunday and La Fete de Marquette this weekend,” Roman says.
“Beyond the accident, it’s really scary to think about how many hundreds of pounds of basically missiles he had in the back because he had all those cases of chicken and bags of rice,” Roman adds. “He had his generator. He had a chef’s knives and cleavers and such were scattered all over his car from it flipping. On so many levels, he just got lucky. Somebody was watching out for him.”
In a YoutTube video (below) released with the GoFundMe, Chef Clarke said, “I’m happy to be alive. According to the officers, I shouldn’t be.
“Now I’m trying to figure out the next steps to take to get back on my feet,” he added. “Thank you, guys, for all of your support and all of your messages. I really, really appreciate it.”
One of the many Madison events that you could always see Mango Man and Cafe Costa Rica food cart at is La Fete de Marquette, which kicked off last night and runs through Sunday on Madison’s near east side.
“He’s definitely going to be there to serve in some capacity and the big issue is getting help right now on short notice,” Roman says. “I don’t know how many times you’ve met him, but he’s a stubborn S.O.B. He’s my closest friend, but he is. So if we can just get a few people there to help so he can take some breaks, that would be wonderful.
The GoFundMe currently sits at $19,439, just short of its $25,000 goal.
“It’s crazy how many people have responded positively to the fundraiser and it just goes to show you how many people he has touched over the years and how well he is loved in this community,” Roman says.