Flynn McGarry, the 16-year-old who is set to open a restaurant in New York later this month, has sat down for an interview with Grub Street to speak more about his new three day a week Eureka pop-up and address some of the questions about his age.
Earlier in the week we brought you the news that McGarry would be opening the restaurant after his initial success with temporary pop-ups in New York and Beverly Hills. The piece received lots of attention and we admitted to wrongly calling the teenager a chef - our bad!
David Santos, an American chef who used to operate a restaurant in the same area that McGarry will open until he had to close, also got involved in the reaction. Santos posting a strong worded response to McGarry’s project saying that people should not spend the $160 on his tasting menu and that being a chef is “not about playing dress up and plating a couple of dishes”.
Reactions from our community have been mixed with many happy to see such a passionate young man getting involved with food. Others have been upset that the term chef has been applied to such an inexperienced person and now McGarry, who says the Eureka project is sold out until mid October, has finally responded.
In an interview with GrubStreet he spoke about how the pop-up will run, the space, his staff employment and just why he didn’t wait to gain more experience before opening.
Here’s a few of the best quotes:
McGarry on why he’s opening now:
“Yes, there's the question of "Why not wait longer?" But there's also the question "Why not do it now?" It's just looking at it from two different ways. Yes, I can wait another ten years, but is that really going to be that much different? You really can't learn how to be a chef by just being a cook. You have to just kind of dive into it, like anything. Yes, I could totally fail at this, but that's what's good about it. Because then, when I do have a restaurant someday, I've already experienced this, and I know what to do. It's practice. I'm doing paperwork and learning how to do food costs. It's just not the normal way to do this career, but why do you have to do it the normal way?”
On people’s comments online:
“Come and eat! You can read all the articles you want — that have been misconstrued 100 times — but I just like cooking food. It's that simple. I'm doing this thing where I get to cook for 24 people a night. If anyone was presented with that opportunity, they’d have to be an idiot to turn that down.”
On the $160 ticket prices:
“Yeah, it's still high. But when you factor in food costs ... like on this menu, there is caviar and foie. And beyond even those luxury ingredients, I went to the Greenmarket today, and apples were $5 per pound. Good food is not cheap, and I'd rather charge $160 and serve the best ingredients than charge $70 and buy shitty ingredients just because that's all I can afford. And the meal includes 14 courses.”
On David Santos’s comments:
“I don't call myself a chef, but also, why couldn't I? It's a word. Ari [Taymor] had my favorite response, when he just started naming random people and saying they're a chef. But I get it — David has a point. Yes, people have worked really hard and have had really shitty lives. But why does that struggle have to be the norm? Why is it that having a terrible life, missing all of your family events, being treated like shit for ten years — why is that the mark of being a chef? It just makes you bitter. I have nothing against him personally. Everyone always makes the same point, asking why people are calling me a chef. What else are you supposed to call me?”
On whether the negativity towards him gets him down:
Every once in a while. I've become disturbingly used to it. It does feel bad when a pretty decent amount of my industry just doesn't respect me because of my age, and this misconstrued idea that I'm really wealthy, which is just not true. People say, "He needs to have a childhood." Like, okay, why do I have to have your version of a childhood? ... Take René Redzepi — Copenhagen hated him when he started. It just took a few years, so there is a light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully. David Santos can rant all he wants, but at the end of the day, we both do the same thing. We both cook.
On his so called privileged background:
“Since I was 12 I've been working in restaurants, which is almost five years now. So it's not like I was just getting into this just for the idea. I got into it because I love cooking, and that's still why I do it.
“But I get it. I get why people are angry. I'd be pissed off, honestly, if some kid did this crazy thing. But the whole concept that I can do this because my parents have money: I do not come from a very rich family. My parents are artists, and they're just stupidly supportive. That's the one thing that I get frustrated with: There was that Slate article a while ago that said, if you want to be a teenage chef, your parents have to be really rich. Mine are not. They're both working people”.