Oh dear Lord, are you kidding me? I’ve got to have a quarter in here somewhere to feed the meter. Please God let there be a nickel hidden somewhere in this car, in this purse, on the floor, in my pockets….

Panic sets in.

I walk to work and it’s a beautiful sunny march up the hills of San Francisco to the tippy top of Nob Hill where my restaurant resides. I am loving life. I am smiling the whole way. Butterflies, birds, and cute Disney woodland animals are gathering around my feet and coming to rest on my shoulders and finger tips. Life is beautiful and perfect.

Approaching the front door to Le Club excitedly wondering if all of my orders have made their way yet, my mobile phone rings instantly yanking me out of my fairy tale fantasy into the world of grown ups, responsibility and (gasp) reality.

“Hi Amy, I’ve got some bad news for you. Your company credit card was denied on your meat order so we won’t be able to get out to you today until you clear that up.”

I stop dead in my tracks with my restaurant in front of me, the TransAmerica building looming in the distance, the bay bridge magnificently reaching out to somewhere else, sailboats gracefully gliding with colorful spinakers on the sparkling Bay. I look up at the Art Deco restaurant sign embossed in bronze elegantly marking the spot “Le Club” and want to cry.

“I don’t know how this can be. Let me call the owner and get back to you immediately.”

The owner is not in San Francisco. In fact she is not in the state and getting ahold of her will be a problem. I dial. No answer. Redial. No answer. I leave a message…

“Gina? It’s me. Listen there’s a problem with the credit card and I don’t know why. All my orders are stopped. It’s 1 P.M. and we have reservations for the evening. Should I slit my wrists now or post ‘closed for maintenance’ on the door?”

Immediately I get a call back. Thank God.

“Hey Babe, no I just switched our bank accounts so we could use the bank down the street for deposits. It’s so much easier. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this. I didn’t think about your food orders. I’m super sorry hon. Will you be okay?”

“I dunno. It’s too late to get them to do a delivery now and we have to re-fax all the new credit stuff. I’ll be fine. No worries. I’ll make it happen…”

“Take my car. The doorman at the Le Club has the keys. Get whatever you need and we’ll cover it sweetheart and I’ll call all the vendors right now.”

Le Club is located in a very old apartment building on the corner of Clay and Jones. Originally when it was opened it was a private dining restaurant only for the tenants of the building. Eventually Le Club opened its doors to the public. But still, to this day, in order to enter the restaurant you must pass the front door test.

I take the keys from the doorman, locate Gina’s car, and speed over to Clement street in the Richmond where a thriving Asian community resides with some of the best produce, meat, and fish in the city. The supermarket May Wah is always a zoo, but the prices and quality can’t be beat.

Heart racing, clock ticking, panic setting in knowing that if I don’t get my shortribs in the oven in an hour they will not be ready by the time we open. And they take time to prepare. I cut them off the bone, trim the fat, clean the bones and re-wrap them like little bone in filets mignons. It’s not a fast process.

A parking space opens up right outside the super market and I flip an illegal U-turn in the middle of the street cutting off traffic. Horns blare, middle fingers are cast in my direction, I don’t care. Tunnel vision has taken over: must get meat, must get meat, must get meat, get the meat, get the meat…

My veins turn cold. No change!?! I have no change?!?! There has got to be something in this car for the meter. Why me? Really?

I’m talking to myself at this point pulling up car floor mats, dumping out purse on passenger seat, digging through glove box, climbing over back seat with butt sticking up in the air shoving hands into backseat pockets, cushions, and crevices.

Et voilà! A dime! That’ll buy two mintues of time. Awesome!

Entering May Wah is akin to willingly checking oneself into an insane asylum. It is a madhouse filled with chefs, cooks, locals, and out-of-towners wanting to view the spectacle. I approach the meat the counter and thankfully the butcher recognizes me and cuts off other people lined up to help me out.

We don’t speak the same language, but that doesn’t matter. I point at the shortribs and ask for 20 pounds. He pulls out the ribs, places them on the counter, and lets me inspect them and pick the ones I want. I motion for him to cut the ribs crosswise for me in 2-inch pieces.

This is why I really love May Way. They have a huge band saw right behind the counter and will prepare anything the way I want it.

The butcher zips the ribs through the saw expertly cutting them to my needs. Wraps them. Smiles. I grab the bag, tell him I love him, and race to the chicken aisle where I can pick out my own birds and carcasses for stock. God I love this place.

The line to pay is wrapped around the frozen food section. I cut off everyone again. No one says anything to me. My terror-ridden expression and chef’s coat says it all. I pay and run out the door to the car.

The meter is blinking “expired, expired, expired…” and the metermaid is writing a ticket just two cars down from me. I hop in and speed off like an escaped convict.

Pulling up to Le Club, once again, but this time with adrenaline pumping I toss the keys to the doorman and run to my kitchen with groceries in arms. Thankfully my fish has arrived on ice. They must not have run the credit card today.

I turn the radio up full blast, turn the ovens up full blast, and turn the speed up full blast. This is going to be a good day afterall.

The ribs are nicely braising and the clock is inching closer and closer to 6:30 P.M. I am ready to rock. My helper, Danny, has arrived and he’s finishing the garde manger prep. Everything is in place. I’ve mopped the floor and washed all my dishes.

I open the restaurant. The bar is looking beautiful. The tables are set. The bartender is gorgeous and professional. The cocktail waitress is ready. The bar back is ready. And I’m ready for a shot of tequila – no lime.

My first table arrives. Life is perfect and beautiful. Butterflies are flocking to my fingertips again. I retreat back into my very happy place and get to work.

Gina arrives later in the evening looking glamorous as ever. No one would even know she just stepped off a plane. Champagne is popping and customers are happy.

Never a dull moment in the kitchen.