SXSW Film Review: Chef Flynn

A slice of life in the kitchen of a culinary enfant terrible

What's the old line about success being 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration? That's a take on achievement that ignores pure, blind, situational luck. In most households, teenager Flynn McGarry would just be some kid. But because he was born into an upper-middle class household, he had the opportunity to become a budding world-class chef.

Chef Flynn is part home movie montage, part contemporary interviews with McGarry and his friends and family by Cameron Yates (of SXSW 2010 title The Canal Street Madam). There is no doubting he is an extraordinary chef – and that's a full chef, not just a cook, as he starts running prestigious pop-up restaurants in New York – and that his maturity would verge into arrogance if he wasn't so low-key self-critical.

Yates' story is of a rich kid who played restaurant with real ingredients, and turned out to be really, really good at this cooking thing. It's a little hard to fully absorb with total sympathy the idea that his life is a complete hardship (compare, after all, his plight to that of the subjects of Oscar-nominated short documentary "Knife Skills", for whom a job in a Cordon Bleu restaurant is the first real break they had in their whole lives).

But the fly in his ointment is his momager Meg McGarry. In a sign of their inverted and often worrying relationship, the boy wonder refers to her as Meg, and it's clear that, not only has he been the adult in the relationship, but her stage parent instincts ran the very real risk of turning him into a monster. There are moments in this documentary that are played as cute anecdotes that instead should be frantically flapping red flags (note: most tweens don't keep unfinished meals in their bedroom). Yates seems unwilling to slice that particular part of the story, instead pushing it to one side like a piece of narrative gristle that he would rather ignore.

Yet, even with omission, there's something intriguing about how this floppy-haired kid with a santoku didn't become the Marjoe of the kitchen. Many children have become the crutch to a parent. He was lucky enough to have the skills and circumstance to thrive and excel. Plus, as one food critic noted, he steams a mean scallop.


Chef Flynn

Festival Favorites
Friday, March 16, 11:30am, Alamo Lamar

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 36 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Kathy Bates, Marc Maron, and More Confirmed for Texas Film Hall of Fame Ceremony
Kathy Bates, Marc Maron, and More Confirmed for Texas Film Hall of Fame Ceremony
We know the winners, now who'll be running the show?

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 14, 2019

Stacey Abrams, Beastie Boys to Speak at SXSW
Stacey Abrams, Beastie Boys to Speak at SXSW
Nile Rodgers, Gwyneth Paltrow and more join the roster

Richard Whittaker, Feb. 12, 2019

More by Richard Whittaker
In Production: Riding the Rails With Jason Neulander’s Upcoming Feature, <i>Fugitive Dreams</i>
In Production: Riding the Rails With Jason Neulander’s Upcoming Feature, Fugitive Dreams
“It’s a road movie about two homeless people trying to survive in middle America”

Feb. 22, 2019

FP2: Beats of Rage
Mad Max meets Dance Dance Revolution in a microbudget beatdown

Feb. 22, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW Film 2018, SXSW 2018, SXSW, Chef Flynn, Documentary, Festival Favorites

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle