Food nearly took Seamus Mullen’s life. The executive chef and owner of Tertulia and El Colmado in New York City, Seamus’ lifeblood is intricately connected to food. Creating and sharing meals with others brings him great joy — none of which would be possible without, well, food to eat. So it makes sense that while food nearly took his life, it also became the secret weapon that healed him and made him healthier and more active than ever.
With his diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease, chef Mullen knew he had to make some lifestyle changes to save his life. In this interview, he shares the details of his healthy, active lifestyle, offers a peek into his day-to-day — and divulges the bacon and avocado breakfast he loves most.
Q: You weren’t always a super-fit chef. What was the turning point for you when you knew it was time to make lifestyle changes?
Mullen: I was really, really sick with a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis), and I got to a point where I was sick, getting sicker and I knew something had to change. Ultimately, I had a near-death experience and I realized that if I didn’t take control of my life and my health, I wasn’t going to be around for much longer. The day I stopped thinking of myself as a sick person was the day I started to become healthy.
Q: Between owning two restaurants, writing a cookbook and all of the other delicious projects you have your hands in, how do you find time to train and ride your bike?
Mullen: I make it a priority. I try not to schedule meetings/calls/work before 10:30 in the morning so I can get my workout in and make sure I’m starting the day off on the right foot.
Q: What best practice/first step can you share with those looking to make lasting lifestyle choices?
Mullen: The most important thing for me is to make a plan and prep ahead — that means I plan out my workouts for the whole week, I prep my food in the evening and, before I go to bed, I get everything I need ready — if I’m going on a ride, I pull out my gear, pump my tires, prep my water bottles, get my food ready so that in the morning, all I have to do is get up, have coffee and roll.
Q: What’s your favorite workout?
Mullen: The best workouts are play, and for me there is nothing as fun as riding the mountain bike. It’s my church, I don’t even think of it as working out but it ends up being some of the hardest work of the week.
Q: What does your rest day look like?
Mullen: I like to be active even when it’s a rest day, so that means a hike, a walk, a cruise around town on my town bike, maybe stretching and yoga, maybe a massage if I’m feeling indulgent. I also like to do meal prep on my rest days so that as I’m looking at the week ahead, it’s not a heavy lift.
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Q: What’s one favorite real-food meal you use to fuel your workouts?
Mullen: Oh man, there are so many! I don’t usually eat breakfast, but if I have a big ride coming up, I love to have eggs with deep greens, crispy bacon and heaps of avocado. It gives me plenty of protein, fat and micronutrients — and it’s pretty tasty going down.
SEAMUS’ QUICK BLT BURRITO
Cook a 7-minute egg (or any egg cooked to your liking). Crisp up a couple of slices of bacon in a pan on the stove. Slice 1/2 an avocado, grab a few sprigs of cilantro, a couple of pieces of fresh bibb lettuce, a slice or two of tomato and a good slathering of Primal Kitchen avocado mayo. Wrap it all up in a big piece of nori seaweed. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: Colin Clark