Refrigerator Look Book: Seamus Mullen

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The celeb chef–author shares how he manages his rheumatoid arthritis with food, and explains why he drinks butter—yes, butter—in his coffee.

Seamus Mullen
(Photo Credit: Colin Clark)

Seamus Mullen—owner of acclaimed West Village eatery Tertulia and a judge on the cut-throat cooking competition Chopped—was raised on an organic farm in Vermont, where super-fresh veggies were a huge part of his diet. That bucolic boyhood made Mullen love food and become a chef, but ironically, the career was bad news for his diet.

"Even though I was accustomed to eating well, my habits became bad," he admits. Like, not-eating-for-hours- then-binging-on-whatever-was-available-at-2-a.m. bad.

Then, Mullen was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis—the chronic inflammatory disorder—and knew it was time to revamp his diet.

With the help of integrative medicine guru Frank Lipman, MD, he ditched gluten and processed foods and centered his diet around fresh produce, high-quality meat, and pastured eggs. But one thing that didn't change was his commitment to flavor. Mullen went on to write an entire book—Hero Food: How Cooking with Delicious Things Can Make Us Feel Betterbased on the idea that eating well shouldn't come at the expense of pleasure. We snuck a peek into the reformed chef's produce-packed fridge to see how he abides by that principle at home.

You shared your green juice recipe with us before. Do you juice a lot of the produce in your fridge? Some, but I do it at the restaurant more. I like juice as a supplement, not as a replacement for food, because you don't get all of the fiber. But I do use the Vitamix a lot, since it does a lot of the chewing for you. You get everything out of the vegetables.

Seamus MullenI see kefir and kimchi in your fridge. Are gut-healthy ferments a big part of your diet? I love kimchi for the flavor, but yes, it's also an important aspect of health for me. I eat kefir and kimchi every day, and I take a very high dose of probiotics.

Clearly, you're a Dr. Lipman disciple! Do you subscribe to his take-lots-of-supplements philosophy, too? Yes, I take supplements twice a day, and they're mostly geared toward lowering inflammation and gut health—things like krill oil, probiotics, zinc, magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin B. I have one of his shakes every morning, and I add whey and turmeric.

You've got lots of eggs. Are they your go-to breakfast food? If I'm exercising really hard, I’ll have eggs and avocados...or eggs, and avocados, and kale...or eggs, and avocados, and grass-fed beef. But usually I have coffee with unsalted grass-fed butter and medium-chain triglyceride oil (it's derived from coconuts and palm kernel and is one of the most efficient sources of calories). And that's all I have for breakfast.

Umm...can you please elaborate on your butter-coffee breakfast? It's pretty wild. I put it all in the blender, and it tastes like a latte. It's rich and creamy, and gives you tremendous energy for quite a long time—you don't get a glycemic spike. I used to have a bagel or pancakes and by 11 a.m., I would literally start shaking. I'd feel hypoglycemic and space out. Since I cut gluten out, I haven't felt that at all.

Okay, but a lot of people are afraid of butter because it's so fatty. The notion of "calories in, calories out" is oversimplified. Fats are some of the best forms of energy. In Tibet, the nomadic people drink yak butter tea—that's where this idea comes from. They consume high-fat foods, because they're great sources of energy. They just have to be grass-fed, and they've got to be natural. —Lisa Elaine Held

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