This teen chef is proof kids should stay out of the kitchen
Sixteen-year-old phenom chef Flynn McGarry has a way with squash. He also has a way with hype. But he has a long way to go before you should plunk down $160 a head (without wine) for his “14-course” tasting downtown at his new 12-seat, pop-up chef’s counter, Eureka.
Be advised: The first four “courses” would not cover an ant’s eyeball. If you follow food at all, you’re up to your own eyeballs in McGarry’s endless coverage by The New Yorker, Food & Wine and every restaurant blog desperate for the next new thing.
McGarry, an LA native, is photogenic and affable, has done microstints in kitchens like Eleven Madison Park, and has tons of raw talent.
But green talent is cheap — or should be. McGarry’s Manhattan debut is a rather ridiculous rip-off, especially if you add $80 to the $160 meal cost for the worst wine pairings ever. And it’s only served at 6 or 9:30 p.m. (Alex Stupak’s acclaimed, Mexican-inspired Empellón Cocina offers 22 small courses at a kitchen table for $165 at a normal 8 p.m.)
McGarry’s handlers, who include a Hollywood agent, have thrust him into the spotlight like a circus animal just learning to walk — a strategy that will not help a career that has yet to actually exist.
The pop-up’s site on a Tribeca corner is a charmless, bare, high-ceilinged void, solemn as an oncologist’s waiting room. A stark black counter seats 12 on three sides. A tall window afforded an expansive view of a parked Jeep.
A host introduces guests to the star: “That’s Flynn, he’s going to cook you dinner tonight.”
McGarry, his James Dean-ish quiff waving in the gloom, is mostly silent, as he peels and slices with surgical concentration. The customers are equally mute despite the efforts of a serving host to warm them up.
The 2½-hour feast, lacking bread or just about any other carbs, left me hungry until nearly the end. McGarry’s veggie-heavy menu pulled off some nice effects, once past a microscopic opener of an eensy Ritz cracker with peanut butter and a molecule of foie gras. Autumn squash boasted a meaty heft, and there was an excellent aged beet.
But any competent chef can turn out a great beet when every diner’s getting the same thing. And any chef should extract more pleasure from 40-day dry-aged Pat LaFrieda rib-eye than McGarry’s underseasoned final savory course.
The tedium was made more tedious by mediocre wines served too warm. Sour-tasting blaufränkisch did no favors to the work of a chef too young to drink. Nor did empty glasses left on the counter that we moved around like poker chips. Place your bet somewhere else.