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“At Gem, a teen wonder plays in the big leagues”, reads the opening headline of New York Time’s restaurant critic Pete Wells who has turned his sharp palate and pen on the work of teen chef sensation, Flynn McGarry.
And, probably to shock and annoyance of at least a few commenters on our Facebook page, Wells has given McGarry’s Gem restaurant a solid two star review.
“It doesn’t take more than a few minutes at Gem to see that the adults weren’t just humoring Mr. McGarry,” wrote the critic. “His cooking is nuanced, his plating is often lyrical and the flavors, at least this spring and summer, have been delicate, subtle and very fresh. The vegetables and fruits he uses in profusion look and taste as if they had dropped off the vine right on to the hand-spun, earth-toned ceramic dishes.”
It’s worth noting that two stars from Wells is a solid score, especially when you’re a 19-year-old opening their first permanent restaurant.
The critic, who did say that McGarry had room to improve as a pastry chef after sampling desserts, was largely impressed with his visits to the young chef’s restaurant. “Each menu crescendos in a complicated, multicomponent spread, and the best of these featured lamb: barbecue ribs rubbed with cracked coriander seeds and XO sauce, plus a skewered grilled lamb kebab and a tomato salad.”
He went on to describe his cooking as “delicate and self-assured” with his favorite dish being grilled king crab legs glazed in rose petal miso.
It’s been fascinating to watch the rise of McGarry, he started with pop-ups as young as 13 in his family home and has developed with internships at some of the world’s best restaurants and a steady stream of ever increasing ambitious pop-ups. He’s been publicly called out by other chefs who were angry about him taking a chef title at such a young age. Surely this review, from such a respected critic, for a restaurant in one of the world’s most difficult restaurant cities, has to finally allow him the title of 'chef'.