Jamie Oliver practiced cooking in his parent’s pub. Ferran Adria was a dishwasher as a teenager. Bobby Flay got an oven at age eight. But Flynn McGarry, age 13, is ahead of them all. Three years ago, the inner-chef inside of him sparked and he set off on the road to chef-dom.
Humble, gifted, and determined, Flynn stopped going to his local school and began home schooling. He read cookbooks and watched TV shows about the culinary world. His dad helped him transform his bedroom into a full-on iron chef kitchen equipped with everything from a Vita-Mix to a Sous Vide Supreme. His mom, (who hates cooking), gladly supplied him with pots and pans. His closet is a spice cupboard; containers of cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper are stacked on his t-shirts and lay by his shoes. Dedicated would be an understatement. In fact, delicious would be an understatement. Flynn’s food is what’s pulling people to the table.
Every month, Flynn and his small but professional staff of middle-schooled sous chefs and waiters organize dinner parties with an entrance fee of $20 per person. Eureka, (Flynn’s “at home” restaurant appropriately titled after their street name), will prepare anywhere from eight to sixteen courses of amazing cuisine. Fanny and I were lucky enough to come to Eureka and try Flynn’s food. The dishes he prepared were so delicious that Fanny payed no attention to her silverware or her napkin; it went down too fast. And no wonder! Eureka’s menu is quite impressive: red wine pork belly, saffron cod cake, prosciutto pumpkin squares, banana créme brûlée, sunchoke soup, grapefruit “snow,” duck, thyme pear juice . . . I have to stop. I’m drooling.
“He’s just really into what he does,” says his biggest fan, (his mom), Meg McGarry. While most kids are busy taking tests and shuffling from class to class, Flynn works at LACMA’s restaurant, Ray’s, from 9:00 to 3:00. “It’s super hot because I work on the meat station which has a grill that is about 600 degrees. But I like it; the people I work with don’t take it too seriously.” Flynn also likes being home schooled. “I have more opportunities to work in different restaurants and I can cook as much as I want,” he says. “I worked at Sweet Butter, a small cafe in Sherman Oaks, and I made soups and helped prep.”
Recently interviewed by The New Yorker, (www.newyorker.com/talk/2012/04/23/120423ta_talk_noxon), Flynn is very busy. So just what does he do in his spare time? “A while ago I was obsessed with dry ice. I did an entire dessert course where each dessert had dry ice in it. I made a chocolate sphere, carbonated blueberry sorbet, coconut milk snow, and twice cooked pancakes.” Hang on. Twice cooked pancakes? “Cooked pancakes pureed and then frozen on a block of dry ice,” Flynn responds cooly. Wow. I thought making oatmeal was hard.
McGarry has also catered. “I tried catering and it went great–the kitchen I cooked in was huge, and we did ten courses that went out perfectly.” Catering, dinner parties, incredible food, wow. That family must be so happy to have Flynn around whenever they’re hungry. “Actually, I don’t usually cook for my family because not all of them like my style of cooking,” Flynn says. “Usually when I cook, I’m either in a restaurant, testing a dish out, or doing the dinner parties.”
With his quick green eyes, a knife in his hand, a smudge of butternut squash on his white chef smock, Flynn seems like he knows what he’s doing. “I think the word ‘chef’ means that you have worked every single station in a restaurant and have mastered the craft–the thing I like most about the culinary world is the creativity.” Indeed, Flynn is probably the most creative aspiring chef I know; his plating techniques and food designs are all so perfectly placed, delicate and colorful. Now when I try to get creative with food, it just ends up looking like a kindergarten art project. Flynn says that as a kid, “I was creative and did art. With food, I can be creative with how I use ingredients. A certain level of detail appeals to me; in cooking, I feel that the dish needs to be as close to perfection as possible. If it’s not really good, I won’t serve it.”
So where does Flynn get all of his ingredients? “I go to the local farmers market almost every Sunday to check out what’s available and in season,” says Flynn. “I like the markets because I can see different foods and meet some of the farmers. The best thing I have ever tasted there is either fresh passion fruit or fresh guava, but the hardest thing I’ve ever cooked is probably the Chinese bitter melon because it is so overpowering, so you have to find the right balance between it and other ingredients.”
When asked who his main inspirations were, the answer was quite sophisticated. “Grant Achatz, Thomas Keller, Ferran Adria, and Rene Redzepi. I actually worked for a famous chef, Daniel Humm, a few months ago at Eleven Madison Park.”
Independent, focused, and talented, Flynn McGarry has big plans. “I would like to open my own restaurant someday so people can experience my food,” he says. So watch out Bobby and Batali; Flynn is on his way.
Article by Luisa Cameron
SiS/blog © 2012