Cameron Yates' intimate doc Chef Flynn is part celebration, part experiment, part cautionary tale, part drama of coming-of-age singular. Above all that, it's a mother's story, with Yates following not just Flynn McGarry but also Meg McGarry, a filmmaker herself, who has been documenting for years her son's culinary blossoming — and her encouragement.
Before puberty, Flynn only wanted to turn his bedroom into a kitchen. Mom let him, springing for good equipment, and we see Flynn, at age 11, tour-guiding us through his "bedroom slash kitchen slash workspace." And here are his dishes: a "deconstructed Caesar salad" with romaine, jicama slaw and a schmear of Parmesan jelly. Like many of Flynn's creations, this looked delectable, if somewhat fussily dazzling, a sculpted splat resembling the hat of some Seussian alien.
What sets this lively, engaging doc apart is that we see Flynn become a culinary star through the eyes of his mother, who at first encourages him, homeschooling the kid and helping him host lavish pop-up dinners from their Los Angeles home. Then she uncertainly indulges him, as his hobby boils over into a sensational career. She helps him take the pop-ups professional, charging $160 a head and up, sometimes in borrowed restaurants in other cities. More fascinating than the food, eventually, is Meg McGarry's conflicted pride and doubt -- she seems to spend a lot of time in the vanishing point between them. No gourmand herself, she says she sometimes wishes he'd just run a food truck, Flynn's Fillets. He's amusingly dismissive of her suggestions and qualms, in that amused/disgusted pleading way kids reserve for parents who are repeating themselves.