When I was fifteen, my mother taught me how to boil water for pasta so I could get dinner started before she got home. Last night, a 15-year-old made me shell-grilled scallops served with champagne fermented turnips, celery root puree and scallop jus, so chances are he won't be spending his post-college years eating Goya beans out of a can.
Said 15-year-old is Flynn McGarry, a controversial teen chef prodigy who's worked in some of the finest restaurant kitchens in the country and runs a $160-a-head pop-up dinner series dubbed "Eureka" in his parents' Los Angeles home. McGarry, who landed a cover story in the New York Times Magazine in March, is in town this week for a two-night only dinner series at Creative Edge Parties in the West Village. Last night marked the first $150-a-head, eight-course dinner, complete with a $60 wine pairing (I was invited as a guest), and a few dozen diners turned out to see how well the kid could whip up his emulsions.
Turns out he can make them pretty well. Elegant dishes like langoustine tartare, radishes grilled with lardo and ramps, and duck cooked in cocoa butter were prepared delicately, and packed with subtle, sophisticated flavor. The aforementioned grilled scallops were particularly good, as was McGarry's beet "wellington", a hearty hunk of pastry-wrapped beet served with creamed kale and topped with a rich beet bordelaise. This is not the Easy Mac meal of your own teen culinary days of yore.
There were some pitfalls—the 8-course menu was somehow stretched into a four-plus-hour 12-course one, with some diners waiting particularly long between entree courses. And while the dinner was certainly tasty, the whole shebang seemed a tad bit gimmicky, like a ninja-themed meal you might drop $60-to-$90 on, as opposed to paying the price of a more refined tasting menu at Torrisi or for lunch at Per Se. And there's been some talk in the culinary world about whether or not Chef Doogie Howser could hack it if he weren't so hooked up—his parents, who built him a custom-designed kitchen stocked with thousands of dollars worth of cooking gear, have major connections in Hollywood, making those $160 pop-up dinners all the more possible.
Fancy cookware and Lena Dunham-esque networking benefits aside, the kid sure knows how to make a duck roulade. Teens could be worse.