At Ambition in Schenectady, New York, Marc Renson serves up classic American cooking and attracts popular personalities like Kristen Chenoweth, Food Network’s Alton Brown, Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. So what’s this place about?
How does a restaurant far from Manhattan find fun clients?
I believe like attracts like. I believe my soul put me here in Schenectady, NY to pursue my passion of food, music, and Hollywood. Never thinking that the old vaudeville theater we have in Schenectady, Proctors Theater, would house so many fun clients and Broadway touring acts who would find me. Or who were attracted to me. Like attracts like! I guess it’s like that old saying, if you build it, they will come.
I am not familiar with the cuisine of upstate New York. What do you guys eat up there that’s completely local and unique to you?
I understand the question of having food an area is known for but Upstate NY doesn’t have any food we’re known for. We are the apple state. Apple picking in the fall is very popular. But I wouldn’t necessarily call that food we’re known for. We don’t have any Philly cheesesteaks, Boston beans, southern grits, or key lime pie. We’re just upstate. Sorry!
Would you say your restaurant is a classic American diner?
Ambition is a retro funky bistro. Housed in a historic building from 1870. When guests walk into Ambition they sense that Ambition isn’t a place they have ever been before or ever will be again. Ambition is my soul. My personality shines through Ambition. Walking into Ambition is like walking onto your favorite Hollywood movie set. Guests stop and just look all around. They try to take it all in. The nostalgia, the campy vibe, the album covers, show posters, celebrity signings, the disco ball, and all the paintings. But if you want to call all of that a classic American Diner, I’m ok with it.
What is your fav dish you order off your own menu?
Before I became allergic to seafood at 24, I LOVED eating my homemade crab cakes. Now, my favorite is our Rajun Cajun chicken sandwich. Which is cajun spiced chicken breast, muenster cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo all grilled and melted on sourdough bread. I love the spicy, mixing with the smoke flavor of the bacon and the texture that the cheese and mayo bring to the sandwich.
Some restaurant owners struggle at the beginning or find it takes a second or third try to stay open. What is your secret to staying open so long and maintaing a fan base?
My secret for getting my business right the first time, and for keeping it successful for so many years, I believe it’s because Ambition is my God given talent. We all possess a natural born talent. Something that only we can do ourselves, that nobody can duplicate, our special gift we get to share and that we can change the world with. And say, hey world…I was here!