In the Era of Child Chefs, Is There Such a Thing as a Food Prodigy? – The New York Times

In the Era of Child Chefs, Is There Such a Thing as a Food Prodigy? – The New York Times

Food experience
There have always been children who — neurologically predisposed to speak eight languages, play a sonata by ear after a single hearing or discern in a fog of numbers the organization of the universe — defy the limits of youth. But only in our new millennium have children joined the ranks of chefs.In 2003, the 12-year-old Luke Hayes-Alexander butchered a pig at his family’s restaurant, Lukes!, in Kingston, Ontario; three years later, he took over the kitchen and became a scholar of charcuterie, curing fennel salami and making headcheese. In 2010, the 11-year-old Flynn McGarry began hosting multicourse prix fixe dinners at his mother’s house in Studio City, Calif., eventually charging $160 a person; last year, a few months after his 19th birthday, he opened his first formal restaurant, Gem, in New York, where the tasting menu might include a surf clam anointed in rose-hip oil and a beet braised, dehydrated, roasted and grilled until it evoked steak. ImageA dessert course with strawberries, cherries and blueberries at Chef Flynn McGarry’s Gem Restaurant.CreditDaniel Krieger for The New York TimesThis is not to mention the many children who don toques on televised cooking competitions, like Estie Kung, who was 7 in 2015 ....


Certainly Hayes-Alexander and McGarry fit the mold, particularly in exhibiting what the psychologist Ellen Winner calls “a rage to master, ” having asked their parents to be home-schooled so they could spend their days scouring cookbooks and teaching themselves arcana like medieval techniques of meat preservation or the outer bounds of molecular gastronomy. McGarry at Gem Restaurant on New York City’s Lower East Side in 2018. He started to host dinners at his mother’s house when he was 11 years old.CreditDaniel Krieger for The New York TimesBut being a chef requires more than aptitude and zeal. Cooking is as much a trade as an art: A chef must, mundanely, negotiate with vendors, run inventory, train staff, maintain safety protocols in the middle of the most helter-skelter dinner service and occasionally compromise dishes to placate restive customers.
Youthful dexterity with flavors doesn’t necessarily translate to a flair for payroll. .

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