Arts movie review

Teen Flynn McGarry cooks smoked sauces, elegant emulsions, and fragrant foams for dinner

A documentary that poignantly chronicles a top chef’s transition from boyhood to manhood

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Chef Flynn McGarry prepares an intricate dish on balloons in his home kitchen.
Courtesy of Kino Lorber

Chef Flynn
Directed by Cameron Yates
Starring Flynn McGarry, Meg McGarry
Now Playing

The foods one associates with a kid’s kitchen might be mac and cheese or Nestle chocolate chip cookies. Sinks and crumb-covered floors reeking of minimum effort and maximum messiness. Yet Flynn McGarry is anything but this. His culinary masterpieces are modeled after world-class fine-dining spots like Alinea and Eleven Madison Park. From a beet Wellington dish paired with creamed sorrel and a smoked date to scallops cured in kombu with walnut pesto and wild fennel pollen, his plates are the pinnacle of culinary art.

At the ripe age of 11 and a half, Flynn began hosting a supper club called “Eureka” in his mother’s dining room. He enlisted his friends to staff his dinners, but after being invited to appear on the Today Show, star on the cover for the New York Times, and cook at pop-up restaurant events with the world’s most prestigious chefs, Flynn outgrew the walls of his home.

With the unwavering support of his mother Meg McGarry and a home kitchen stocked with advanced cooking technologies like induction burners and vacuum sealers, it is easy for critics to attribute Flynn’s success to superparenting and financial privilege. However, the captivating documentary, entitled Chef Flynn, debunks such myths. As a filmmaker, Meg has a tendency to record Flynn at every step of his creative process, such as strolling in the woods to find inspiration for a new dish, hacking at a chicken carcass, and using tweezers to precisely place herbs on a filet of fish. In a charming way, Flynn always shies away from the camera when his mother records him, insisting that there is nothing important to see. Yet such documentation allows the audience to look behind the glamor of fancy sauces and colorful ingredients and into the ubiquitous pressures of his daily life. Between silky shots of foaming soups and curling smoke lies the story of Flynn: a son of two creative professionals, a child of an alcoholic father, a teen schooled at home due to the persistent school bullying, and a young man whose passion for food has pushed him to replace a childhood with 40-hour weeks in the kitchen. Through the chronological montage of home videos depicting a young Flynn carefully charring vegetables with sweat pooling from his brow and late nights in a professional New York kitchen rubbing blisters into his teenage feet as he acts as manager, it is clear that Flynn did not receive his success on a silver platter. Rather, he made the platter himself.