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Teenage chefdom

by David Lamble

Teenager Flynn McGarry, subject of director Cameron Yates' "Chef Flynn." Photo: Kino Lorber
Teenager Flynn McGarry, subject of director Cameron Yates' "Chef Flynn." Photo: Kino Lorber  

We've had "The Galloping Gourmet" and Julia Child. Now behold the arrival of a great teenage chef. The large segment of the LGBTQ filmgoing community hooked on TV cooking shows will find one coming attraction to be literally mouth-watering. In the new culinary film bio-doc "Chef Flynn" (opening Friday), a blond, lightly freckled teenager, Flynn McGarry, is seen working up a head of steam in his family's kitchen. With the blessing of his mom, Meg, the then-10-year-old Flynn turns the family room into a fancy dinner club, employing his young classmates as assistant chefs. Says Meg Flynn, "I'm sort of a player in this film about my strange son who figured out his life so early. I just want to make sense on how it happened."

Joining a growing genre of food docs, director Cameron Yates demonstrates how the boy goes from celebrity teen, appearing in 2014 in a widely circulated New York Times Magazine cover story, to a culinary-industry force competing with men and women with years of painful apprenticeship behind them.

Flynn McGarry leaves little doubt that regular high school classes were crimping his style. "I hated having to be at school eight hours a day. I'd just be planning dishes. Can't I be homeschooled?"

Flynn's mom adds, "He wants to be taken seriously. He wants the top of the game that's fine dining."

Young Flynn had a bit of help in realizing his dream to conquer the expensive and often snobby world of fine dining. Flynn's mom and dad spared little expense in retrofitting their modest middle-class bungalow. If the kitchen counters were too high, they paid for turning their dining room into an exact replica of the one at that gourmet heaven The French Laundry. When their son needed privacy to expand his menu items, his father built a small kitchen in Flynn's bedroom that bore a striking resemblance to Chicago's trendy Alinea's. While many kids his age would ask for a car as a birthday present, Flynn requested and received an induction burner, and later a vacuum sealer as a Christmas stocking-stuffer.

McGarry himself signaled the direction his career was heading when he sold his guitar to pay for a high-end kitchen appliance. In a cheeky aside, the young chef replies to comments about his age and rosy red complexion. "Maybe I'll be a boy forever!" The filmmakers take pains to capture some of the kid's kitchen techniques, such as using a blowtorch to help one special dish along.

Even a childhood illness, a case of whooping cough when he was 11, proved a blessing in disguise, as it allowed Flynn and his mom to binge-watch the program "Iron Chef Japan."

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