Sydney Film Festival Review: Chef Flynn (USA, 2018) is as neat & tidy as an entrée but you will probably be left wanting more

It’s fair to say that most of us home cooks are more like Nailed It! contestants than MasterChefs. So imagine how surprising it is to see a young child cooking up fine dining dishes with aplomb. Chef Flynn is a documentary about Flynn McGarry, this particular child prodigy. While it’s an entertaining story you can’t help but feel like you’re being served an entrée rather than the full three course menu.

This film is directed by Cameron Yates but a secondary credit should probably go to McGarry’s mother, Meg, who is a filmmaker herself. A lot of this film uses the home videos she shot over the years. This allows audiences to have some very intimate access to this wunderkind’s story and allows us to see Flynn evolve over time just like the participants in the 7 Up documentary series. We see Flynn as a baby encouraged by his parents with toys through to blossoming into a fledgling child cook and into the success story he is today. The film doesn’t mention this but he did recently open his very first restaurant in Manhattan called Gem.

With any kind of success comes the inevitable detractors. The fact that Flynn was given opportunities to work at famous restaurants when he was a teenager while others who had paid their dues and would have given their right arms to participate is only briefly alluded to. This documentary also asks the question of whether Flynn is even deserving of the title, “Chef” as he is still so new to the industry. But no experts are offered here which is a shame because the audience would have benefited from a bit more context on where Flynn fits into the culinary world. Instead, we just accept that he is a prodigy with no alternative, even though Flynn himself dislikes the term.

This documentary is a hagiography. It’s a one-sided look at this wunderkind. It shows his initial interest in cooking after his parents divorced and how he started staging ritzy super clubs in the family home. There is certainly a lot more to this tale then what is presented here. We are shown Flynn’s impressive bedroom with expensive kitchen kit but you get the sense that Yates is failing to dig deep. This is particularly apparent when it comes to Flynn’s relationship with his mother. While she wants what’s best for her child, at the same time there is certainly some slight bitterness at his success and at her having to compromise on her own dreams to support his.

It would be easy to dismiss Flynn as being a tall poppy or too big for his boots. But the shots of his creations are absolute food heaven. It’s pretty obvious that this kid knows his as way around the kitchen. The dishes look so spectacular that you will be salivating and wishing you could sample them there and then. And for those MasterChef trainspotters, you will remember that Flynn has actually appeared on a pressure cooker challenge a few series ago.

Chef Flynn is an interesting film that chronicles part of the journey undertaken by a creative culinary prodigy. It’s a story about passion, achievements and a singular focus above everything else. The story is a neat one that isn’t a balanced formula so while it’s all for celebrating the joys and successes, you can’t help but wonder what the hidden ingredients were in this tasty meal.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Chef Flynn is screening as part of Sydney Film Festival. For more details head HERE.