At 19 years old, Flynn McGarry admits he always dreamed of opening a restaurant—a goal he deemed lofty when he began cooking at 12 years old. But now he has Gem: a home-like venue hidden along Forsyth Street in Manhattan. Here, the chef and his team serve two seatings of 12, Tuesday through Saturday. Being closed on Mondays and Sundays is important for the chef—for prepping and a bit of calm. But on the Monday before he serves 200+ for Caviar Month aboard Hudson’s (NYC’s gourmet restaurant on a boat) he preps a dish from the menu for us: a smoked cauliflower custard is the base, with a heaping portion of caviar, crisp green apples, dill and dill oil on top.
The dish is calculated yet creative, but when finished, it feels like just one part of his idea—not fruition. (The same way a single flower is beautiful on its own but more riveting in a bouquet.) Dinners at Gem are eight to 12 courses, and reservations are made without a menu with the inherent trust that McGarry will deliver something beyond traditional restaurants—something transformative and equal parts home-cooked and highbrow. He started hosting dinner parties in his parents’ home when he was 13, and his work in kitchens across the world has reinforced the ethos he carried when he first began.
“I think it was when I realized that going to a restaurant and sitting and eating a meal was not just not just about things tasting good,” McGarry says. His time spent at Eleven Madison Park bleeds through into his own space. “How they all work together,” creates a lasting impact on guests, he’s observed, as well as “the space that you’re in, the music—just the whole experience. I think once I understood the importance of the whole experience—the whole atmosphere, and pacing and everything—that was when food became a lot more interesting to me.”
It’s building this enveloping experience that McGarry loves. Every aspect of Gem is his from open to close. But aboard Hudson’s on 14 October, the chef will have to focus on only the aspects he can control: a five-course meal doused with caviar.
“It’s really based around how to eat a lot of caviar and not make it seem like you’re just eating the same things with caviar,” he says. “Where it’s not just, ‘OK, we have this dish and there’s a scoop of caviar on top,’ but it’s about, ‘How can we make it seem a little bit more cohesive’ throughout the dinner.”
As McGarry reinterprets a traditional caviar-based meal, the setting and music will be handled by the team at Hudson’s. Aboard their beautiful M/Y World Yacht, “Princess,” an extravagant dining experience hits open water. The vessel departs from Pier 81 and journeys toward the Statue of Liberty. Dinner service begins promptly after departure, and wraps before the ship returns.
McGarry’s dinner, on Sunday 14 October, is one of three Hudson’s is hosting during Caviar Month. Other featured chefs include Alex Atala and Zak Pelaccio. The schedule, menus and tickets are available on the event page.