Though technically a legal adult at 19-years-old, chef and restaurateur Flynn McGarry still gets qualified by the epithet “teen chef” whenever he makes the news. This week, it was for the announcement of his new LES restaurant Gem. When asked about some of the internet hate he received upon the announcement, McGarry tells Eater he’s used to it.
“It’s always going to be a thing,” McGarry says. “There’s nothing I can do about it at this point. It took a long time for me to understand that there’s always going to be someone in, for example, the Eater comments sometimes that’s not happy with it.”
McGarry says he has responded to his critics by just continuing to do what he does. He says he does hope that the new restaurant — an all-day concept that includes a casual space called The Living Room for pastries during the day and post-dinner cocktails, as well as The Dining Room, which offers a set 12 to 15-course menu for $155 — will help people get away from the idea that what he does is a gimmick.
“I have to do everything that everyone else is doing at a restaurant,” McGarry says. “I have to do payroll, I have to pay rent, I have to deal with the health department, all of the aspects that are pain in the asses of running a restaurant. We need to do the same as everyone else.”
McGarry has done pop-ups around NYC with a tasting menu called Eureka since 2014, but Gem marks his first all-day restaurant endeavor. In a breakdown of the dinner menu, McGarry says it’s divided into four sections.
The first are the hors d’oeuvres, served with champagne in The Living Room, which will include his signature take on a Ritz cracker sandwich, made with foie gras, peanuts, and sour cherry. The appetizer section of the meal takes place in The Dining Room and involves about six courses, which he says will be “traditional size tasting courses.” The next section he describes as “more family-style, comforting” foods, which will always include some sort of pasta. For the last section of the dinner, there’s a featured protein accompanied by several little side dishes for a seven-courses-in-one experience. Then there are desserts, followed by petit fours and after-dinner drinks in The Living Room.
Gem’s two-space setup is meant to evoke the feel of a dinner party, a tribute to the dinner parties McGarry started throwing in his parents’ home when he was 13-years-old.
“I just do my job,” McGarry says. “I don’t mean to offend anyone. If people are offended, that’s fine, but that’s not my intention. I just want to cook food, and it seems to bother a lot of people, and that’s okay.”