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Uncle Pete Gives Friendly Advice and Two Stars to Teen Chef Flynn McGarry

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The Times critic praises the food but says service is lacking in a two-star review of Gem

A young person wearing an apron and chef’s whites, Flynn McGarry, stands in the window of a restaurant.
Flynn McGarry at Gem
Photo by Alex Staniloff

A review of teen chef sensation Flynn McGarry’s Lower East Side tasting menu restaurant Gem has hit the Times, scoring a positive two stars in a review that praises the savory food and takes issue with aspects of the service.

Along with the rest of the adult population, critic Pete Wells “was wondering, at some level, whether everyone had been too polite to tell him that his brownies needed more time in the oven,” he wrote. What he quickly found, though, is food that befits a proper NYC restaurant:

My favorite Gem dish so far, delicate and self-assured, was a morsel or two of grilled king crab legs lightly glazed with rose petal miso and set beside soft chamomile-scented potatoes for ballast, red currants for zing and some fluttering rose petals on top for the heck of it. A close rival was the chilled bowl of barely vinegared mackerel interwoven with grilled cucumbers, sliced plums and salty red dabs of mashed fermented plums. The harmonies were right on key, with a Japanese mood that didn’t cross the line into outright imitation.

Other standout courses included white asparagus with butter, chicken jus, and pine needles; barbecue rubs with cracked coriander seeds and XO sauce; and “perfectly cooked” squab leg with maple jus and a rye cracker with squab liver spread, cherries, and pickled ramps.

His main complaints had to do with dessert — berries with chamomile- and rose hips-infused whipped cream that although “refreshing,” made it “clear that he has room to grow as a pastry chef” — and too-fussy service.

Because the wunderkind chef is a teenager, Wells also couldn’t help but proffer some saccharine advice about being himself: “Mr. McGarry obviously learned a lot from his mentors, but he can cook in his own voice now, and it may be time to leave his idols behind.” Two stars.


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