Wunderkind chef Flynn McGarry releases a grown-up memoir

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At age 24, chef Flynn McGarry has achieved more success than many chefs twice his age. Photo by Lucas Creighton.

At age 12, Flynn McGarry turned his mom's San Fernando Valley home into a $160-per-person monthly supper club. At age 15, he was the subject of a New York Times profile. At age 16, he graduated high school and moved to New York where he eventually opened his own restaurant, Gem, featuring a 12- to 15-course tasting menu. He has staged at Alma, Playa, Eleven Madison Park and Alinea and starred in a Sundance documentary ("Chef Flynn"). It's safe to say he's a child prodigy. Or, more accurately, was a child prodigy.

"This Is Not A Cookbook" traces Flynn McGarry's. Photo courtesy of Delacorte Press.

Now 24, McGarry recently wrote "This Is Not A Cookbook," a tale of creativity, discipline and parental support. Aimed at kids and teenagers, it traces a foodie's obsessive journey, from a makeshift bedroom kitchen to a brick-and-mortar New York restaurant. "One of the best ways to inspire creativity is to identify your problems, prejudices, and dislikes and use them to create something that brings you joy," he writes. For McGarry, that bête noire was the humble beet.

"Beets were something that I always sort of disliked and it would be really easy to write them off as something I don't have to think about or try," he says. "But instead the challenge of having to work through that and finding a way to… appreciate this thing you once hated… you're like, 'Oh, this part really works and I really like this.' Most of the process of discovering how to enjoy a beet, I started applying to anything."

Flynn McGarry explains how he stopped worrying and learned to love beets, as demonstrated by his Beet Wellington recipe. Photo courtesy of Delacorte Press.