‘Chef Flynn’ Review: A Gastronomic Wonder From Boy to Man

Posted November 8, 2018 10:46 p.m. EST

Before his teenage years, Flynn McGarry contrived a fully functional kitchen in his bedroom. Nurtured by parents who were professionals in creative fields, he enlisted his school pals to “staff” his increasingly elaborate meals, made in a style heavily influenced by the elegant minimalism of restaurants like New York’s Eleven Madison Park. His Los Angeles home eventually became a supper club attended by Hollywood insiders of some particular caliber or other. (In one scene of an evening’s serving, a patron has her dish delivered as she utters the immortal phrase “P.T. Anderson and Luke Perry were there.”)

“Chef Flynn” is an engaging documentary about McGarry’s boy-to-man journey, which concludes as he prepares to open his own restaurant in Manhattan. (Our restaurant critic, Pete Wells, awarded his place, Gem, two stars over the summer, citing some reservations about the service.)

The movie, directed by Cameron Yates, is really a dual portrait of Flynn and his mother, Meg McGarry, a filmmaker whose compulsion to chronicle her son’s progress is unstoppable. Much of the interaction between mother and son consists of variations of him saying, “I can’t believe you’re filming this,” and her responding, “How can I not film this?” As much as his mother has clearly been a tireless supporter, the viewer can’t help cheering when Flynn pushes back at her.

The personal dynamic dominates, and it’s interesting. But I would like to have seen more about McGarry in the context of changing food culture, particularly the emerging consensus that running a kitchen, no matter how high the pressure, can’t be an excuse for abusive behavior. The young man, who’ll turn 20 this month, seems a relatively gentle soul in a world still learning to be less needlessly rough.

Additional Information:

“Chef Flynn”

Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 22 minutes.