These days I seem to be spending a ridiculous amount of time visiting local snack bars and cafes. I think it’s the side effect of working from home – as much as I love it, I realised in January that days would go by without me interacting with a ‘real’ person so in an effort to drag myself away from the beckoning (and every so slightly tempting) hermit lifestyle, I started eating my lunch out more often. So, when Is the Coffee Fresh? came up I was intrigued at this chance to get a little bit of insight into those people who so lovingly prepare our food and beverages.
Renson breaks the book up into various sections, covering his history in the catering/restaurant business, how he started Ambition (his own restaurant) and then various chapters on the type of obstacles he and his staff face on a regular basis. Actually, for ‘obstacles’ read ‘customers’. Reading Is the Coffee Fresh? you could almost come to believe that Renson would love his job – if not for the people he has to serve. Thankfully, it’s clear from many lovely mentions to regulars and downright nice people that this isn’t actually the case.
Nonetheless, there’s something about this book that made me feel vaguely uncomfortable in parts. The problem with a book like this is it has a real ‘whispering at the water cooler’ feeling and also, you’re very aware that you’re only hearing one side of the story. Not that I believe Renson would have any reason to lie, embellish, or otherwise stray for the truth but even so it’s impossible not to feel a little bit naughty reading it, like you’re indulging in a (pretty lengthy!) stream of bitchy gossip. Which, I suppose, you are… Even so, hearing about the customers who are ‘dumb’, ‘stupid’ and ‘crazy’ is probably best taken in small doses!
I was very pleased that the latter chapters moved on to the much more positive aspects of Ambition’s life so far, such as the customers who have been supportive or provided kind words when they were most needed. The stories of the many visits from various celebrities were also intriguing. One of my favourite sections, however, and one which I think will prove popular with many was the recipe section where Renson actually imparts some of Ambition’s much loved dishes. Definitely a bonus!
Lest I seem too harsh in my words, this was a well written book with a very uplifting story of how one man has used his passion to build something that he loves very much – and it’s clear that many others do too. Renson may come across as a little mean from time to time but there’s certainly no malice or viciousness in the book. You can forgive a little backbiting from the man who has heard ‘Is there canteloupe in the canteloupe juice’ or ‘Is the coffee fresh’ or ‘Do I get change from my $5 discount coupon’ over and over and over ad nauseum. All the same, the book really shines in the areas in which it focuses on the positive and I truly hope that if there is a sequel (Is the Coffee Still Fresh? Okay, maybe not!) that there are many more uplifting tales that focus on the kindness of human spirit, rather than the folly of human nature.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why Me?”
A framed picture has disappeared from the men’s room wall… the freezer is suddenly and explicably on the fritz… a man at the counter can’t comprehend the cool cantaloupe soup… and the health inspector just walked through the door. Don’t panic – it’s just another day at Ambition Coffee House & Eatery.
Business co-owner and author Marc Renson takes you on an entertaining, outrageous journey of madness and mayhem experienced in the daily operation of Ambition, one of downtown Schenectady, New York’s most popular restaurants.
Read about celebrities who eat there and meet “the regulars” who keep the staff hopping with their cosmic questions: Is the sandwich special good? Does your cream of tomato soup have milk in it? Will the Cajun spices bother me? And of course… is the coffee fresh?
And while you’re at it, contemplate the question – Do crazy people really wear red shoes? The answer may have you glancing through your own closet.
Interestingly enough, enduring the insanity of what people say and do results in an understanding that everything happens for a reason. There is a purpose for meeting all the people along life’s journey, and they collectively contribute to the certain fact that there is an answer to “why me”… it is because dreams really do come true, as they have for proprietor Marc Renson.
As Marc would say, “Welcome to my world… and my ambition!”[/sws_blue_box]
Author: Marc Renson
Source: I received a copy in exchange for my fair and honest review
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