Chef Flynn

Chef Flynn

2018, NR, 83 min. Directed by Cameron Yates.

REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Dec. 7, 2018

Culinary wiz kid Flynn McGarry cooks up a storm in this charming little documentary about an amazing, freckle-faced teenager with a discerning palate for fine food. At age 12, when most of his contemporaries were still climbing trees and playing video games, this precocious youngster was planning menus and preparing gourmet dishes for elaborate supper club parties hosted in the living room of his mother’s San Fernando Valley home. To cultivate their son’s passion for the piquant and the savory, Flynn’s parents converted his bedroom into a makeshift kitchen outfitted with induction burners and state-of-the-art cookware, so the boy wonder could experiment and perfect his budding sense of cuisine.

While Flynn may sound like the enfant terrible of today’s gastronomic scene, this self-taught young man couldn’t be more likable, though his need for perfection may ultimately take its toll on an otherwise affable personality (on the opening night of his pop-up restaurant in New York City, performance anxiety gets the best of a stressed-out Flynn and the F-bombs fly). Still, he seems to have a solid head on his shoulders for a former child prodigy – a label he’s come to deplore even though it earned him plenty of press, including the March 2014 cover story of The New York Times Magazine. Case in point: When asked whether he missed having a childhood, Flynn matter-of-factly responds (without a lick of irony) that 10 years of childhood was enough, thank you very much.

While the movie principally focuses on Flynn’s professional aspirations, including his desire to be accepted as a chef in his own right despite his age (the online trolls had a field day after the NYT article), a prickly relationship with his mother, Meg, provides a subtextual narrative that sometimes feels a bit uncomfortable. A filmmaker who set aside a career to raise her children and then unwittingly became her son’s de facto business manager when his monthly dinner event “Eureka” took off, she’s constantly documenting his life with a video camera or hovering over his shoulder, usually to his chagrin. There’s a hint of stage-mothering here, though without Meg’s nurturing support and willingness to bend her life accordingly, there’d be no Flynn McGarry story today. And without the early footage of the younger Flynn courtesy of Meg’s helicopter parenting, there’s little doubt the documentary would feel incomplete. Just wait for the grainy color film of the toddler version of the movie’s titular chef blithely playing on the floor with his own pots and pans in fated anticipation of his future calling. It’s too adorbs for words.

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Chef Flynn, Cameron Yates

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