Restaurant lets aspiring chefs run the show


Guest Chef on College Avenue in Oakland is an entree into the world of restaurant originality. It's the idea of a real estate developer.

"We provide people with an opportunity to do something they've always wanted to do but have never been able to do," owner Scott Cameron said.

For two weeks David Hung and his daughter Maddy are guest chefs. He's the CEO of a San Francisco biotechnology company. Maddy will be a freshman at Harvard University. They are passionate about cooking.

"My mother is a fantastic cook; I learned a lot from her when I was a little boy and then I went to cooking school for a year when I was in my first year of medical school," Hung said.

"We cook together a lot at home so this is an extension of that really," Maddy said.

"We've always loved cooking; Maddy started cooking when she was 5," Hung added.

Instead of watching "Sesame Street" as a child, she tuned in to Jacques Pépin and Martha Stewart.

The two have renamed the restaurant Marco Polo after the explorer. It is an Asian-Italian menu.

"We tried to take some traditional herbs and spices and blend them into classic Italian recipes," Hung said.

It has been a hit. They've been filling the 23-seat restaurant twice nightly.

For many people, Guest Chef is about fulfilling a dream. For the Hungs it is about bonding. For another chef it led to a job. The chef had been applying at several restaurants.

"He invited those guys who run the restaurants to come watch him cook and so he actually had a kitchen, he cooked, did a really good job and he got a job out of it," Cameron said.

For the Hungs, it's back to the real world after this. David's company is awaiting FDA approval for a new prostate cancer drug. Maddy needs to pack for university. But they have the memories.

"To be able to make other people happy and provide that service has just been really fun," Maddy said.

A new chef comes in next week.

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