Guernsey Park could be the restaurant the Asian District has been destined to produce since Vietnamese refugees first arrived in Oklahoma en masse.
The chef and owners are descendants of those refugees, born and raised right here in Oklahoma City. Guernsey Park is 100 percent Oklahoma through the eyes of a group of friends raised in bicultural environs. What owners Truong Le, Nam Nguyen, DW, Marvin Tharasena and chef Vuong Nguyen have done in converting a residence behind Cuppies & Joe into a three-level, ultra-modern restaurant space is create the world's first Oke-Asian restaurant. And I have a feeling it won't be the last.
When Vietnamese refugees began flooding into this country in the early 1970s, Oklahoma became an unlikely haven for those forced to flee their war-torn home country. Those refugees gravitated toward the section of town bounded by N Western Avenue, NW 23 Street, Classen Boulevard and NW 36 Street.
Once upon a time, the Grand House was a run-of-the-mill Chinese takeout in a small building. The Super Cao Nguyen Market was in a small, nondescript building specializing strictly in Asian ingredients. Pretty soon the area became known for pho thanks to places like Pho Lien Hoa. Saigon Baguette opened in the wedge building beneath the Townley's Milk Bottle, Golden Phoenix and Chinatown Market opened, Fung's Kitchen is a more recent addition, and today the district draws visitors from all over the region every week.
While those restaurants developed over time, young Vuong Nguyen grew up at the corner of 18th and Military in a home with culinary credibility that he was too young to marvel at but lucky enough to witness and consume.
“My grandmother was a chef,” Vuong said. “She was always in the kitchen ... People were always coming over to eat her food.”
And his father was a pastry chef.
So it was little surprise when Vuong Nguyen ended up working in restaurants himself.
“I was a waiter at La Baguette ... Pretty soon (chef/owner) Alain (Buthion) let me come work in the kitchen. He taught me a lot.”
Vuong said it was that experience as he fought through the heartbreak of a lost relationship that cemented his destiny to become a chef.
“I knew then that's what I wanted,” he said.
So, he did what so many young, ambitious cooks do in Oklahoma City, he applied for entrance into The Coach House Apprenticeship Program and was accepted.
“Chef Kurt and chef Dave (Henry) taught me everything about cooking.”
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If you go
Guernsey Park, 2418 N Guernsey, is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For reservations and more information, call 605-5272.