Chef Flynn McGarry opened his first “restaurant” in his living room — when he was nine years old. His friends served as line cooks and his family helped at “the front of the house”.
He foraged seasonal ingredients to create menus when most other kids were impressing us by slapping together a pb & banana sandwich. As he grew into his teen years it was apparent that this interest wasn’t a fleeting hobby but a passion for fine dining. That focus and concentration didn’t go unnoticed as foodies flocked to eagerly try is menus. The young chef quickly buzzed as a rising star in the culinary world and was lucky enough to work with some the most notable chefs globally. But life definitely hasn’t been easy for him especially with the media keeping a watchful eye every step of the way. Now, at 19 years of age, he’s recently opened up his restaurant GEM in the Lower East Side of New York.
Of course, mom has been right by his side every step of the way. As a filmmaker, she naturally documented his 18 year journey with no shortage of family moments. Now, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival is set to screen his story, including footage from his early years to today. Directed by Cameron Yates, this documentary is not only the study of a rising star but also a look at a mother-son relationship and what it means to devote everything to your child’s dreams.
The documentary had its World Premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and International Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. Hot Docs will be the film’s Canadian Premiere.
We had a chance to chat with Chef Flynn ahead of the Canadian Premiere at Hot Docs:
Where do you get your inspiration for your dishes?
It really comes from everywhere. I get inspired about dishes at very random times, so I think it’s more about retaining the things that inspire me and letting them filter out through food.
What would you consider to be your signature dish?
There is a beet dish that I’ve been doing for 3 years. It’s braised, smoked, grilled and dried and served with wilted beet greens and a sauce made from beet scraps.
What are your favourite kitchen gadgets and why?
I love a super high powered blender so you can make the smoothest purees, and as simple as it is I think a grill is the best kitchen tool.
What’s on your restaurant bucket list to eat at?
I really want to eat at Fäviken in Sweden.
Who are the chefs that have inspired you the most?
I’ve been really inspired by Daniel Humm who I interned for at Eleven Madison Park and Rene Redzepi from Noma.
Who’s kitchen would you love to be in and learn in?
Right now I would probably want to go work in a tiny restaurant in Italy making pasta.
Your personal favourite meal or dish that you love to eat?
Carbonara is my comfort food.
You’ve gone from home restaurant to opening up GEM in NYC. What’s that been like for you?
It’s been great! It got rid of lots of the hurdles of trying to cook a tasting menu in a home. But has also brought a lot more work on the administrative side that I’ve been wanting to learn.
You’ve been getting a lot of press attention including New York Times. We’re sure that’s really catapulted you quickly into the spotlight. Now this documentary. What is life like for you now?
It’s the restaurant! Everything that I’ve been doing has been leading up to this. So now that it’s open it’s my main focus.
What’s been the most rewarding part of running your restaurant?
Being able serve people my creations everyday.
What advice would you give other kids who want to be in the kitchen?
Have fun with it, but start with the basics.
What do you do for fun?
When I’m not working, which right now is very rare I like to immerse myself in other art forms. So I’ll go see lots of movies or museums, just something to pull my mind away from cooking.
CHEF FLYNN (Canadian Premiere) will screen during the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on April 28, 29 and May 5. Note special “Food & Film” event in listings. Visit www.hotdocs.ca for all details. Great for serious young chefs in the making to see as well.