While the media likes to hail chef Flynn McGarry as a pubescent kitchen wizard, it’s no surprise not everyone in the chef community is starry-eyed about the food world’s most notable child prodigy.
News broke this week that the 16-year-old culinary “wunderkind” would be doing a 14-course tasting menu project in New York. For $160, you can snag a ticket to Eureka NYC (what McGarry has dubbed his dinner project), where you’ll be served plates like “peanut Ritz crackers with foie gras terrine and sour cherry compote.”
After reading the news, NYC chef David Santos took to Instagram to express his disapproval for the endorsement. He didn’t mince his words:
Santos, who initially received media attention by hosting pop-up dinners in NYC, states that one earns the title of chef “through years of being beaten and shit on…Maybe one day he will indeed be a great chef, I’m not saying that, but earn it before you offend most of us that actually are.” He continues by saying that those who are willing to shell out $160 for McGarry’s tasting menu are “damn fool(s),” and that being a chef is not about “playing dress up and plating a couple of dishes.”
I’m sorry but I hope I’m not the only chef that’s offended by this. I shit this morning more knowledge and life on the line then a 16 year old has. The fact the media even calls him a chef offends me to no end. Chef is something you earn through years of being beaten and shit on and taught by some of the greats. Not doing trails that your family pays for. Because as a real chef I don’t treat people who trail the same way as people who sweat and bleed for me.If you go to this and fork over $160 plus then your a damn fool because I can name so many more actual chefs that actually deserve that money. Maybe one day he will indeed be a great chef I’m not saying that but earn it before you offend most of us that actually are. And any idiot that works 3 days a week can put together a couple great tasting dishes. If you can’t your fucking worthless. Try managing people and dealing with the ins and outs of an operation and still being creative and inspiring to the people that work under you and intrust their futures in the knowledge you will pass onto them. That’s a chef that’s what a chef does. It’s not about playing dress up and plating a couple dishes. @EaterNY @gregmorabito #notachef #earnitkid
L.A. chef Ari Taymor, who mentored McGarry during a stint at Alma, quickly came to the 16-year-old’s defense after reading Santos’ rant.
Taymor’s Twitter response got the attention of Taco Maria’s Carlos Salgado, who says, “I think it’s ok to hold a high standard for the title,” and asks, “Is this conversation healthy for anyone?”
Whether or not this social-media quibbling is “healthy,” it is a larger part of a conversation that’s been taking place recently about kitchen culture. In an essay for Lucky Peach, chef Rene Redzepi urges chefs to “forge a new path forward” and discard the idea that the kitchen needs to be a hostile environment. He argues that “the cooking profession has been lifted out of the blue collar into something extraordinary.”
This all leads us to the question: At the end of the day, is being “beaten and shit on” really something that makes a chef a chef?