When I was 11 years old, I made a pretty solid ham and cheese sandwich. When Flynn McGarry was 11 years old, he was serving up multi-course dinners to paying customers at his own restaurant run out of the Los Angeles house he grew up in. One of these two people spent his teen years dubbed the “Justin Bieber of food.” It wasn’t me.
If you’ve followed the culinary world at all over the last several years, chances are you know Chef Flynn, the child prodigy who was fronting his own New York City pop-up restaurant by the time he was 16. He was in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Vogue; he was on Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Larry King. This kid was everywhere. And now comes the eventual documentary, plainly and matter-of-factly called Chef Flynn, to peel back the layers of this incredible young talent and it turns out that there’s… not much?
Don’t get me wrong – this kid’s dishes look fantastic, both in style and in flavour, and he seems like a nice enough guy. Any attempt to uncover any private personality traits or motivations, however, is thwarted by a coming-of-age narrative that is somewhat sedate. That’s not to say there aren’t some interesting ideas hinted at, as director Cameron Yates brings up the divorce of Flynn’s filmmaker parents or his struggles with the snarky backlash on social media. But as soon as these are introduced, they’re shrugged off in favour of more footage of Flynn placidly working away in the kitchen.
The film feels strangely out-of-date as well, since filming ends in 2016 when Flynn moves to New York City to live and make a go of it by himself. It’s hard to feel too much tension in the climactic sequence where he has his shaky first guest opening at a hip NYC restaurant when we know he’s gone on to even more fame and success in the years since. It’s not even as dramatic as your average MasterChef episode.
As lacking in intrigue as this all sounds, Chef Flynn does have a winning sense of optimism that rubs off intermittently. Smoothly edited by Hannah Buck and electronically scored by synthpop duo Holy Ghost, it still achieves a consistent pleasantness throughout. We might not end up knowing what makes Flynn McGarry tick, but there’s no doubt that his determination and focus to achieve his dreams no matter the odds still resonates.
- Release Date: 1/25/2019