Flynn McGarry is exceptional. At the ripe age of nineteen, he opened his own restaurant GEM in New York City’s Lower East Side. It offers two components. The Living Room, a casual daytime space, is McGarry’s idea of a local coffee shop hang out, and serves house-made pastry creations as well as coffees and teas from small roasters. The Dining Room offers a $155, gratuity included set menu consisting of 12 to 15 courses. Also available is a $100 wine pairing. “The format follows a dinner party, like the ones I started throwing at 13,” McGarry, writes in an announcement detailing the opening. He was throwing elite dinner parties while his counterparts were in grade school, and he tells us about his life in cuisine.
Tell me about how you came to realize your love for food.
“I think I came to realize my love for food around the age of 10, once I started researching and cooking. It was then that I learned how creative cooking can be.”
You’ve been called the Justin Bieber of food. How do you feel about that?
“I think it’s very funny that that’s the thing that stuck with everyone… but, hey, Justin Bieber turned out okay, so I’m not mad at it. It’s just funny that that’s how everyone chooses to describe me.”
Where are your favorite places to eat in LA and in NYC?
“In Los Angeles – I love Sqirl, Badmaash, Felix, and Gjusta. In New York City – The Four Horsemen, Wildair, Le Coucou, and Wu’s Wonton King.”
Tell me about GEM. What inspired you? What do you hope the guest will experience?
“It was inspired by dinner parties – the idea of coming to my house for dinner. Our guests start their night in the Living Room (like you would in someone’s home) with a glass of champagne and snacks. Then we move everyone into the Dining Room for the remainder of the meal. They can also choose to enjoy an after-dinner drink or coffee back in the Living Room after the meal. My hope is that people come in and relax – just as they would at a friend’s house.”
What’s your favorite food to eat?
How would you like to see your career advance?
“My goal has always been to be at the helm of my own restaurant – and now that it’s finally open, I’m sort of taking every day as it comes and evolving with the restaurant and the space. I don’t think it can really be planned – we’re open, the public will have their opinion, and I can set new goals from there.”
Where do you get the inspiration for your menus at your pop ups and your restaurant?
“I find inspiration from everywhere. Cooking is my creative outlet…. so anything that I see, encounter, think of…. it gets processed through my cooking and my food.”
Have you travelled anywhere that has inspired you?
“Everywhere! But the one place that has really stuck with me the most is Italy. I am inspired by the way people treat food there.”
Who would be your ideal collaborator?
“Chef collaborator? I would have to say Rene Redzepi, just because no one else thinks about food the way he does. Another type of collaboration? Probably Glenn O’Brien.”
What’s your favorite dish from GEM’s menu?
“I really love the Lamb Feast – it really breaks up the traditional experience of a tasting menu and drives home our idea of feeling like you’re at someone’s house for dinner. Right now, the Lamb Feast consists of four courses – lamb loin with vadouvan bagna cauda, lamb shank braised with warm spices and apple cider, grilled sunchokes with sunflower seed and chili salsa, and a simple bitter green salad.”
How do you hope to see the food/restaurant industry change in 10 years?
“I hope it becomes more inclusive – whether that’s inclusive of age, gender, orientation… The industry should be more accepting of different kinds of people, different ways of learning. I hope it will begin to adopt change the way other industries have started to. While I think food has adapted and evolved, I hope that the culture and the way restaurants are run will catch up.”
Featured image credit: Chloe Horseman courtesy of Bolster Media.
Additional images courtesy of Gem.