Chef Flynn McGarry is just sixteen years old, but you’d never guess it from his latest project.
He just began a pop-up dinner series where a reservation will cost you $US160 a head — plus an additional $US80 for wine pairings.
The 14-course tasting menu will be served three times a week at the Creative Edge Parties dining room in the West Village.
There will only be twelve seats at the table each night — and New York foodies are scrambling at the chance to be there.
Seats at the dinner are already sold out through the middle of October.
“It’s cool,” McGarry told Business Insider. “I like that we don’t have to worry about getting people to come and eat. It’s a good feeling to have people want to actually come and try the food rather than just read about it.”
This isn’t the first time McGarry’s cooking has drawn huge crowds.
Eureka is an expansion of a wildly popular supper club McGarry started hosting in his parents’ Los Angeles home when he was just 13 years old.
“It was originally for a few of my mum’s friends, and I would cook them a couple of dishes,” he said. “And then it eventually grew to be much more.”
In 2013, he sold out a 120-person event where each guest paid $US160 a ticket.
That’s not bad for someone who isn’t even old enough to legally drink the wines he pairs with his meals. McGarry confesses he only really picked up cooking because he was getting tired of what his parents were serving him for dinner.
“I got sick of eating kid food, more or less, and I was very precocious when I was 10 years old. My parents were more than happy to let me take over,” he said.
Curious about what he could really do with food, he picked up a copy of “The French Laundry Cookbook,” a tome filled with highly technical recipes.
“Once I started to discover more about fine dining and the actual art form behind cooking, then I started to become obsessed,” he said. “Because I wanted to cook all of the recipes in that book, I had to learn all of the basic skills.”
He says a big change for him was when his family moved from surf-centric Malibu to Hollywood, where he found a whole new culture waiting to be explored.
Just five years later, McGarry brought his talents to the East Coast for the very first time.
Carla Ruben, owner of Creative Edge Parties, discovered Flynn after reconnecting with his mum, an old college friend of hers, on Facebook. McGarry did his first pop-up at Creative Edge in May 2014, then did another the following February.
“It was a sell-out from the beginning. We had people banging down the door because people were so excited for his first time here,” Ruben said. “I think the amazing thing about Flynn is that he is one of the most serious chefs I’ve worked with, which was really exciting. This is not about anything more than being the best chef, and that’s his goal more than anything.”
McGarry is relatively modest about the crowds his food draws.
“Once they do arrive, I need to make sure they have the best meal they can,” he said. “It does make life easier when we don’t worry about filling every seat out.”
And McGarry has quite the meal planned for his guests. Among the 14 courses is a sea urchin brined in sea water, served with a carrot coffee puree. To achieve the taste, he’s let coffee beans infuse with vinegar for a month.
“I describe the food I cook as ‘modern American’ because that gives me the freedom to cook whatever I want,” he said. “It’s mostly inspired by ingredients and what’s good at any given time, and by places I’ve worked and eaten and travelled.
Ideas for dishes will also just come randomly. I’ll just be walking down the street and I’ll see something that looks vaguely like some ingredient, and the dish will just come together immediately. Those are always the ones that come together in the first couple of tries.”
He’ll also be making a beet bordelaise dish, which involves ageing beets for three weeks, reconstituting them in smoked beet juice, and topping them with a beet sauce. It takes about 10 to 12 hours to prepare.
“There’s not a lot of sleeping involved. I have no cooks — every little job that’s done in the kitchen is me,” he said. “It’s a lot of planning in advance.”
Among his list of influences, McGarry counts Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park (where he spent some time learning staging), Thomas Keller of the French Laundry, and René Redzepi of Noma.
“What’s cool is that in this day and age, you can go on Instagram and see what every single chef you admire is doing,” McGarry said. “Obviously it’s different when you do go to the restaurant and experience it, but I would not know so much about what was going on in the food world without that.”
Now he’s looking for an apartment with a friend in Brooklyn, “just like every human being who’s in the food business in New York,” he said with a laugh. His residency at Creative Edge is semi-permanent and will last at least six months, but he says there’s always a possibility Eureka will develop further.
“It’s a very open-ended discussion,” Ruben said.
McGarry will be all on his own, as his parents have stayed back in Los Angeles, and he already tested out of high school.
“There’s always a lot to think about,” he says when I mention that that’s a lot for a 16-year-old to handle. “Long term, I want a restaurant that has a staff and more than 12 seats. I set unrealistic goals because it keeps me constantly wanting more.”