flynn mcgarry, america’s next top teen chef
The teen-chef-prodigy Flynn McGarry talks about music, girls, and inspiration.
Flynn McGarry by Adrian Gaut
When we meet for a juice in Soho teen chef prodigy Flynn McGarry is sleepy. He was up until 3am the night before cooking ten courses for 50 New Yorkers. Over the course of two nights, he sent out two thousand plates to hungry, judgmental foodies for the NY debut of his legendary Eureka tasting-menu dinner parties. He's since been feted on the pages of New York magazine, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, he's becoming the toast of the New York restaurant scene even if he's too young to drink. All very impressive for a 15-year-old, who looks even younger. He began cooking passionately since the age of ten and since then he's trained at Michelin-starred restaurants, traveled the world, and picked up 28,000 Instagram followers (as well as a few groupies and his own hashtag). When we meet he's accompanied by a documentary film crew, as well as his Mum and through the yawns we chat about music, girls, and inspiration.
How different was doing the dinner in New York from your house in LA?
In LA we know exactly who's helping, the food, the space and most of the people coming. In New York I hadn't even seen the kitchen before I got here. I had never worked with anyone in this place before. I was going in completely blind.
What was the most innovative dish that you sent out at this dinner?
I'd say it's a beet Wellington; puffed pastry on the outside, then beet, greens, roasted mushroom. The beet is smoked, then dehydrated, then it's wrapped up and then roasted, like beef Wellington. It started as a pun and became something delicious.
What kind of music do you listen to in the kitchen?
I used to not like cooking with music on, but it's so boring without sound. When I'm scrambling in the kitchen, we blast Drake. This year I cooked a bunch with The Strokes, The Drowners. I have eight cooking playlists that keep me awake. When I am prepping at four in the morning it's definitely very loud.
I heard you're also into fashion.
I'm a big fan of Rag & Bone, All Saints, Topman, J. Crew; it's all very similar, I say I dress like a stylish 35 year old. When I cook I usually wear clogs as my shoes. Depending on how fancy the evening is I'll change into a chef coat or something. But I prefer just wearing a button down shirt and an apron. I have lots of handmade aprons that I designed. The one that I mainly wear is off white with black straps, and I have another one that's denim on one side and tweed on the other.
Describe your ideal dinner party.
I've actually never gotten that question before. The coolest dinner party would with the cast of the original Ocean's Eleven, with Frank Sinatra performing, in Vegas.
Are you still in high school?
No, I'm home schooled. I'm taking the high school equivalency exam to get out early next spring, though.
And then the plan is to work in a restaurant?
In New York, yes. I'm thinking Eleven Madison Park because they've talked to me about maybe coming and working there, and it's an incredible place to work. Either that or maybe I should go to Europe for a few years, but we'll see.
Who are some of the chefs you admire?
Daniel Humm from Eleven Madison Park. Rene Redzepi from Noma. Esben Holmboe from Maaemo in Osli. Then Ferran Adrià, Thomas Keller, too. I don't really have a specific idol because I like to see what different chefs are doing. I can take inspiration from all of them.
What's your favorite place that you've traveled to?
New York is probably my favorite place in the entire world, but recently I did a collaboration dinner in Hawaii and that wasn't too bad because I was there for two weeks and was only working for two nights. The rest of the time went and found weird beaches in the middle of nowhere.
Where do you like to eat in New York?
Roberta's is good. I just went to Musket Room and that was really good too. I eat a lot of ramen in New York, there's this sushi restaurant called Benkei that changes into a ramen restaurant late at night. Oh and Ivan Ramen in the East Village that just opened up.
When you're going out to eat at three AM are you with other 15 year olds?
Most of the time it's with much older people.
A lot of your friends are older chefs. What do you guys talk about?
Chefs are very immature, a lot of them actually act younger than me. Most of my best friends are in their late twenties, which is kind of weird, but they're who I spend most of my time with. Chefs love to talk about other restaurants. There are very few things I could say without having to be bleeped out.
Have you gotten any good advice from any of them?
Yeah. I've gotten a fair share of good advice but also a great share of terrible advice. A chef that I know, out of nowhere goes, "you should be like Zorro. When you're going out with a girl you need to be there a hundred percent and then just disappear." Everyone else in the kitchen was like, "what are you telling him to do? That's the worst piece of advice I've ever heard."
Do you have a girlfriend?
I'm going to plead the fifth on that one.
Explain your hairstyle.
I don't really know what the hairstyle is per se. I wake up and it's like this. I started the hair like this two years ago and then it kind of caught on and now there's a hashtag about it: #flynnshair.
Do you have chef groupies?
I do, and it's kind of weird. All of my friends make fun of me about that. Even at the dinners there's plenty of them. I also find it odd because a lot of them are much older than me and weirdly obsessed with me. But maybe chefs are now becoming rock stars?
Have you ever been to prom?
I just went two weeks ago. I didn't like it. It was on a yacht. We were on it for like 20 minutes and then we all left and went to In N' Out.
Photography Adrian Gaut