Chef Seamus Mullen was working grueling hours just after opening his Boqueria restaurant in New York, when he woke up one night with hip pain so agonizing that he had to dial 911.
The then 32-year-old chef spent the next three days hospitalized, with doctors running every test conceivable until they discovered the cause: rheumatoid arthritis.
The auto-immune disease causes the body to produce too many white blood cells and attack itself, causing painful and debilitating inflammation.
For a chef who works long hours on his feet, it was devastating news. But Mullen vowed he would not let it get the best of him. Not even when he competed on “The Next Iron Chef” three years ago, making it to the final three. The frenetic experience, though, led to another rheumatoid arthritis flare-up, leaving him unable to move quickly around the set. He was eliminated, and returned home in a wheelchair.
But Mullen fought his way back, making changes to his life, including in his diet. He doesn’t believe that food can cure illness, necessarily. But he does believe that what you eat can improve your sense of well-being.
To that end, he’s written “Hero Food” (Andrews McMeel), of which I recently received a review copy. Arranged by the seasons, it spotlights the 18 ingredients that have made a dramatic difference in his life, including almonds, parsley, fish and olive oil.
It’s no surprise that blueberries — rich in Vitamin C, manganese and antioxidants –make an appearance in the book. Specifically, in “Mutti’s Blueberry Boy Bait,” a cake that his grandmother started baking for him when he was just a tot. It’s based on a recipe by a 15-year-old girl who competed in the junior division of a Pillsbury baking contest in the 1950s.
I couldn’t resist the name, which appears to be apt, given that my husband was as endearing as can be after having a slice warm from the oven.