‘Chef Flynn’ tells the remarkable story of Flynn McGarry, who begins cooking at an incredibly early age. In this documentary from filmmaker Cameron Yates, we see very early on that Flynn had an affinity for cooking, as we see from home movies that Flynn was play cooking before he could even talk. HIs mother, Meg McGarry, is a filmmaker, so she has documented Flynn’s rise as a chef throughout his life. At age ten, Flynn decided to open a supper club in his home he shared with his mother. He would get his friends to help in the kitchen and serve the meals. At first, the meals were for family and friends, but as word got out about Flynn’s talent in the kitchen, more and more diners were people that had heard about him and his cooking. Flynn has a remarkable ability to soak up recipes in his head, planing 7 or 8-course meals and at one point was doing the cooking in his bedroom. Flynn’s cooking was copied after the big time restaurants in New York City, so his meals look like artwork on a plate.
I must confess that this is not the food for me. It is way too fancy for my simple meat and potatoes palate. I can appreciate the effort and the talent that Flynn puts into his work, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. By age eleven, Flynn was charging for his dinners in his home and by age twelve had let his friends go and had hired some servers and prep help in the kitchen. It is often that Flynn used unique cooking tools, like tweezers, to arrange the food on the plates. Flynn also does plays on traditional cooking, such as creating a Beef Wellington meal with beats instead of beef, though I think he goes a little too far by calling it ‘Beat Wellington.’ The media were starting hearing of Chef Flynn; he was profiled by the New Yorker at age twelve and at age fifteen was on the cover of the New York Times section about the top chefs around the country. There was quite a bit of blow-back on that cover, some feeling that he wasn’t yet in league with some of the great chefs in that profile, but to his credit, there were quite a few famous chefs who came to his defense. The film lets you decide if Chef Flynn is worthy of the praise and attention.
When Flynn goes to a book signing by the chefs of Eleven Madison Park, he shows them one of their dishes that he has created in his home. They were so impressed that he was invited to work in their NYC restaurant for a week, in what is considered one of the 50 best restaurants in the world. The film follows Flynn to New York and shows him holding his own in the kitchen with the staff. By age fifteen, he is doing pop-up multi-course meals at some of the best restaurants around the world, charging as much as one hundred and sixty dollars for the meal. Chef Flynn is still a kid, and the film does show us one of the pop-up services that go so badly, that Chef Flynn has a meltdown, finally giving some of the customers a full refund.
The film shows that Flynn’s mom is a crucial element to his success. Part chronicler of Flynn’s life, part promoter and the bill payer, she is there with Flynn, always supporting him, even if Flynn feels that she doesn’t always do the right thing or gets mad at her for continually filming him. You do get a vibe that the mom is living through Flynn. She is around him all the time, having home-schooled Flynn when she figured out just how talented he was in the kitchen. I worry that she took him out of school too soon because once he doesn’t go, it seems his friends disappear. Flynn also appears to obsess over food, as at least in the film, and it seems that he doesn’t have a lot of outside hobbies or interests. It is never clear how the mom supports the massive bills that Flynn runs up with his very fancy food or how they pay for all the travel costs. Flynn’s father is out of the picture pretty quick into the film and mom, when Flynn’s supper club is taking off, moves into a much nicer and bigger house with Flynn. By the end of the film, Flynn has moved to New York to find his restaurant space, and the mom has backed off, somewhat out of his life.
I am not a big foodie, so once the novelty wore off of his being so young, the film dragged for me a bit. I also wanted more information from Flynn about his philosophy of cooking and did his cooking success at such an early age make it harder for him when he went out on his own. Furthermore, we never get to see his restaurant in New York City, his big dream that he has been working towards his whole life.
If you are a foodie, and you love food that looks like pieces of art, then this film is for you. For the rest of us, the film has just too many holes to be a total four-star film.
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
Mike’s rating system from best to worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again