Chef Flynn

Flynn McGarry, 15 in the documentary, has been “cheffing” since he was 10. I’m not talking about peanut butter toast, this kid is the real deal, sourcing ingredients most people wouldn’t recognize as food, preparing it in ambitious ways, plating it with finicky precision to detail. His mother Megan, once a film documentarian herself, has no shortage of home video of his meteoric rise to culinary stardom, and this film uses that footage liberally. We see him hosting a 12-course “supper club” for family friends in his home at age 13, with a kitchen full of children to do his bidding, and transitioning to professional pop-up restaurants in New York, with trained staff underneath him, just a few short years later.

Chef Flynn is replete with food porn sure to make foodies happy, but this documentary doesn’t exactly focus on the culinary side of things. Instead, director article-2269130-1733455C000005DC-923_634x422Cameron Yates focuses on the unusual relationship between mother and son. Meg McGarry allowed her son to drop out of school to focus on his passion. Now, nearing 16, he’s ready to move away to pursue his career. As a mother, we see helicoptering, permissiveness, indulgence, and an incredible amount of creative nurturing. But we also find a woman who has lost herself in her son’s shadow. Pursuant of her son’s great passions, she’s forgotten hers, and now that he’s ready to leave her behind, what will become of her?

Yates shows a little of the familial friction but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. This is otherwise about as thoughtful as any home video: with almost no input from outside the family, it’s hard to judge how good Flynn really is, or what place he has among top chefs. Plenty of pro chefs balk about even calling him a chef, but we never get to hear from the opposition. I think his talent and enthusiasm are in earnest, but the truth is, this is a privileged white kid whose parents indulged his whims and bought him his biggest dreams. His childhood bedroom housed more high-end appliances than my grown-up kitchen. He hasn’t paid any dues. He didn’t have to work for this. Chef Flynn is interesting, but it’s a one-sided story, all sweet with no salt, which any chef should know makes for a boring meal.

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17 thoughts on “Chef Flynn

    1. Jay Post author

      He’s got his own place now in NYC called Gem – I hope it stays open long enough that I can stop in one day.

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  1. J.

    Wait!! Peanut butter toast isn’t serious culinary shenanigans? What if you add banana and a touch cinnamon? That’s a whole new level, right? … right?

    Anyhoo, it’s good that the wee guy’s got passion for the whole chef thing, but I can’t help thinking that trouble is right around the corner for him. I don’t think they’ll have ever truly considered how to respond to failure.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I really don’t know to what extent we should allow children to pursue adult passions, or let them work away their childhoods, and I’m glad that’s not something I’ll ever have to deal with myself. There are so many complexities to being a parent. Not that every parent even stops to think about what the consequences are – some are too busy living vicariously I suppose.

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      1. mydangblog

        I used to love watching my son do kung fu, (which I thought was super-cool but was something I was not good at), but only because he liked doing it so much. When he really wanted to stop and focus on his schoolwork, it was fine, although I had to give up on my dream of having a ninja for a son.

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  2. Liz A.

    An object lesson in why many kid stars have less than stellar adult careers. He may overcome the childhood coddling or he may not. Only time will tell.

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  3. Christopher

    There’s a story about the composer Saint-Saëns, who was a child prodigy and could play Mozart and Beethoven pieces when he was five. Someone asked, “What music will he play when he’s twenty?” and his mother replied, “His own.”
    The only reason that story’s told is because he did go on to a great composing career.
    I thought about that because this documentary is, at best, a prequel to a great career for Flynn.
    Given what happens to most child prodigies, though, I’m not too optimistic.

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  4. peggyatthemovies

    Sometimes I wonder how you even find these movies.. 🙂 so interesting..The only reality show I watch is Top Chef – so when they came out with a Top Chef Juniors – naturally I was watching. Totally different from this kid – whom yes, I believe is a spoiled little rich boy whose parents just catered to him and when he gets older and actually into the business – will crash – but the Top Chef Juniors were amazing – kids from ALL backgrounds and it was fun. plus on a sad note..they ALL cook better than me.. hahahha

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    1. Jay Post author

      I can’t take credit for this – it was part of the excellently curated Hot Docs film festival.

      When I was a kid there was a game show on repeat (so I’m not sure how old it was, but definitely 80s I’d say) called Just Like Mom where the final segment had the kids all baking something, and them moms had to identify which dish was cooked by their kid. I thought I could game the system by working out a code with my mom – like i’d be the one to bake the cookies with tuna, and surely i’d be the only one, right? Alas, I never got my chance.

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