Seamus Mullen Makes the Case for Food as Medicine

Scenes from our #saveursupper with the chef and author of Real Food Heals

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Photographer Melanie Dunea and chef Seamus Mullen get snapped up for Instagram.Matt Taylor-Gross

Chef Seamus Mullen's new books is called Real Food Heals. That phrase is more than just a title: it's a life mantra for the chef, who radically reformed the way he ate after a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. Eating more thoughtfully, combined with exercise (he's a passionate cyclist) led the chef to lose 65 pounds and beat back his disease.

He shared some of the principles of his new approach to eating during a visit with his team from Tertulia, his Spanish restaurant in New York’s West Village, to the SAVEUR test kitchen on Wednesday night.

Some of the accommodations to better health were obvious—guacamole came with (delicious) crudités instead of chips. Other dishes didn’t seem to be health food at all, like a grilled eggplant with herb labneh. That’s ambiguity is integral to the way Mullen thinks about food now: there’s no contradiction to him between food that tastes great and is good for you.

The perfect example came in the first course, an heirloom tomato and watermelon salad with burrata. Many eaters struggle with inflammation caused by tomatoes, Mullen said, but they are at their least inflammatory when they’re at their most ripe and delicious. Eating seasonally and seeking ripe tomatoes meant better things for both the flavor of the dish and how it makes you feel.

In some cases, Mullen says, he exercises moderation with his moderation. An ultra-buttery dish of seared swordfish wouldn’t make a good every-Tuesday meal because of its elevated mercury content. For a special event, though, it’s important to let yourself live.

Nowhere was that more evident than with the wines, natural bottlings provided by David Bowler wine that ranged from a ripe-but-dry German Riesling to a serious, structured barbera from Coli Tortonesi in the Piedmont. In moderation, "wine is a great thing,” said chef Mullen, “when you want to be healthy and happy."

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The supper kicked off with a guacamole and souped-up crudité platter.Matt Taylor-Gross
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Chef Seamus Mullen was visiting to celebrate the launch of his new book, Real Food HealsMatt Taylor-Gross
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David Bowler Wine brought the vino, including this sparkler from Patrick Piuze.Matt Taylor-Gross
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Chef Seamus Mullen was cooking with one arm after a bike crash in Italy, but it didn't seem to slow him down in the kitchen.Matt Taylor-Gross
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Fluke crudoMatt Taylor-Gross
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Cathy Lo of Good Housekeeping, Genevive Ko, Mullen's co-author of Real Food Heals, and Alex Pearson.Matt Taylor-Gross
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Grilled broccoliMatt Taylor-Gross
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Ryan Healey of Sweetgreen and SAVEUR senior editor Chris CohenMatt Taylor-Gross
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Becky Wright, Bella Mancini, and Jeff ManciniMatt Taylor-Gross
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Burrata with heirloom tomatoes and watermelonMatt Taylor-Gross
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Chef Seamus Mullen, Lauren Scala of WNBC 4 New York, and publicist Evyn Block.Matt Taylor-Gross
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Chef Seamus Mullen, CJ Frogozo, Taryn Toomey, Raj Barker, and Becky Wright.Matt Taylor-Gross
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Bailey Bennett of Travel + Leisure, food writer Jake Cohen, and Kristen Miglore of Food52Matt Taylor-Gross
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Scallop ceviche with lime, chile, mint, and basilMatt Taylor-Gross
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Evan Spingarn of David Bowler WinesMatt Taylor-Gross
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Coconut-roasted cauliflowerMatt Taylor-Gross
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Leonard Lopate and artist Melanie Baker with chef Seamus MullenMatt Taylor-Gross
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Seared swordfish with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, celery, and capersMatt Taylor-Gross
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Plating the desert of sliced peachesMatt Taylor-Gross
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The Tertulia kitchen crew came out to help with the supperMatt Taylor-Gross
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R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, Seamus Mullen, and SAVEUR editor-in-chief Adam SachsMatt Taylor-Gross