Excerpt: Preeti Mistry, The Juhu Beach Club Cookbook

Episode 2: Preeti Mistry

"I thought I was going to start out with a food truck. But back in 2010 Ann, my then-girlfriend and now-wife, kept nudging me to do a pop-up at the slightly sketchy liquor store across the street from our South of Market loft in San Francisco. It’s the sort of place you’d drive right by without giving it a thought. The Garage Café, as it’s known, was where I went for beer, snacks, scratchers, and emergency milk for the six years we lived in the neighborhood.

It had a kitchen hood, which clears grease, smoke, and heat above a cooktop. That was about all the store had to recommend it. But it was an important detail. You need a hood to deep-fry; you can’t cook Indian street food without deep-frying. That’s Juhu Beach Club: It’s the hot dogs and funnel cakes of Indian cuisine.

Still, I’m a chef who’s cooked in fine dining and corporate food service. So the idea of this disorganized, filthy space selling convenience foods . . . my first inclination was to turn my nose up at it. But I didn’t. Instead, I approached the owner, he was open to the idea, and we figured out an informal agreement about what hours we could open and what equipment we could use.

We spent days cleaning. I worked on a menu. We had no idea if people would come. Though not wholly positive, the Top Chef TV exposure from the year before helped: Who is this woman and can she cook? People were curious: they came, they ate, they wrote about it.

But the first day, before we opened for business, I was totally scared. I felt a lump in my throat. My mom told me to pray. I don’t pray. But the first morning of the pop-up I brought in a small statue of Ganesh and prayed. A friend’s son gave me a little green plastic toy for good luck. I kept it in my pocket every day back then.

I felt like this was my one chance. I could not fuck it up."

Reprinted with permission from THE JUHU BEACH CLUB COOKBOOK © 2017 by Preeti Mistry with Sarah Henry, Running Press.

Brian Stewart