The Great Big Why: Tony Zarlenga

"Restaurant people are so much more than purveyors of food and drink."

Ivelin Radkov ©

After reading through the words of owners and operators around the state in our feature “The Great Big Why,” Tony Zarlenga of Denver’s Cafe Brazil shared his own thoughts about the essential commonalities that drive everyone in the industry.

Reading the experiences, thoughts, and opinions of our restaurant people immediately brings a very evident truth forward. From our beginnings to whatever end awaits us, restaurant people at their core are so much more than purveyors of food and drink. Some of us are poets, some artists, some mentors. 

There are leaders, lovers, and fighters in our midst, often for the benefit and in the service of others. We are maternal, paternal, and fraternal. We become family in every positive and dysfunctional sense. 

We are followers of a culture rooted in a willingness to excite the senses and human spirit in a way which instills joy, happiness, satisfaction, and contentment. 

Food and drink is our vehicle, the medium we excel at—the medium which enriches our soul and becomes our contribution to the good of others and ourselves. 

Why do most of us go on? 

We go on because while we can struggle to change and adapt to this episode in our lives. At our core we cannot abandon who we are.

What is your “why”? Email your experiences (and thoughts, opinions, and questions—anything, really) to


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