Flynn McGarry, 15 in the documentary, has been “cheffing” since he was 10. I’m not talking about peanut butter toast, this kid is the real deal, sourcing ingredients most people wouldn’t recognize as food, preparing it in ambitious ways, plating it with finicky precision to detail. His mother Megan, once a film documentarian herself, has no shortage of home video of his meteoric rise to culinary stardom, and this film uses that footage liberally. We see him hosting a 12-course “supper club” for family friends in his home at age 13, with a kitchen full of children to do his bidding, and transitioning to professional pop-up restaurants in New York, with trained staff underneath him, just a few short years later.
Chef Flynn is replete with food porn sure to make foodies happy, but this documentary doesn’t exactly focus on the culinary side of things. Instead, director Cameron Yates focuses on the relationship between mother and son. Megan McGarry allowed her son to drop out of school to focus on his passion. Now, nearing 16, he’s ready to move away to pursue his career. As a mother, we see helicoptering, permissiveness, indulgence, and an incredible amount of creative nurturing. But we also find a woman who has lost herself in her son’s shadow. Pursuant of her son’s great passions, she’s forgotten hers, and now that he’s ready to leave her behind, what will become of her?
Yates paints quite a character portrait, allowing only the occasional glimpse of cracks. The excessive use of Meg’s voice alone tunes us in to just how much she believes this story to be hers, so there is indeed friction to be sown here. But with almost no input from outside the family, it’s hard to judge how good Flynn really is, or what place he has among top chefs. Plenty of pro chefs balk about even calling him a chef, but we never get to hear from the opposition. Chef Flynn is interesting, but it’s a one-sided story, all sweet with no salt, which any chef should know makes for a boring meal.
Saturday, April 28, 6:45 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
Sunday, April 29, 10:45 AM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Saturday, May 5, 1:15 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre