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Seamus Mullen is known for his modern Spanish cuisine. While chef of Manhattan's Boqueria restaurant, he earned a glowing two-star review from The New York Times. He became enamored with the various cuisines of Spain while studying at Universidad Autonoma de Extremadura, before working in some of the country's top kitchens (Mugaritz, Abac, Alkimia). He further honed his skills stateside at restaurants such as San Francisco's Mecca, as well as Manhattan's Tabla and Suba, where his menu led The New York Times to raise its rating to two stars. In 2009, Seamus introduced his cooking style to a national audience on Food Network's The Next Iron Chef. His first cookbook, Hero Food, will be published in January 2012.





How do you characterize your cuisine?

Regional Spanish food.

What region or ethnicity most influences your cooking?

My food is heavily influenced by the Basque country, Asturias and Catalonia, but I also love the simple food of the south of Spain. Of course, I'm cooking in New York, largely with New York state ingredients so there is a little wiggle room for creative expression. I like to think of my cooking as cocina de producto or product-based cooking. Simple, unadulterated and enjoyable.

Surprisingly enough, Japanese cooking factors heavily into my approach to food. The Japanese are famous for their reverence for wonderful ingredients and nothing highlights that more than Kaiseiki style dining. I love to think of the food I cook as a more relaxed, Spanish version of Kaiseiki served in a raucous, stylish and fun dining room.

What is your signature dish?

It depends on the time of the year. There's a dish that I love to cook with sugar snap peas, sepia, and mint. I'm not sure if it's a signature, but I could eat it for as long as peas are in season.

What kind of food were you exposed to as a child?

I grew up on a sustainable organic farm surrounded by amazing vegetables. We also raised our own meat. My dad was growing heirloom tomatoes long before anyone was calling them that. Both of my grandmothers were gourmands (Mutti trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris in the 1930's and lived with the Sabatier family) so I was quite lucky to eat very little junk food growing up.

Is there an exotic spice or ingredient that you particularly enjoy using?

I'm a huge fan of Piment D'espelette.

Does the design and style of your restaurant evoke a particular place? If so, where?

Tertulia is inspired by the casual sidrerías (cider bars) of Asturias and the Basque country where food is food and all are welcomed. In sidrerías anything goes and no matter if you're in a suit and tie or jeans and a t-shirt, one thing is for certain, the cider will flow and the ingredients will be irreproachable. We wanted to capture the essence of the elegant old restaurants that used to be in every village in Spain with low, vaulted ceilings, barrels with wine or cider, wood-fired grills and decadent brass throughout. The idea was to balance the fine line between rustic, old world, aging and refined, timeless and elegant.

Our restaurant was the original Red Head restaurant before it became too popular in the 1930's and moved uptown to become the 21 Club. It's soaked in New York history in the same way that the sidrerías of Spain are soaked in their own history.

In an effort to evoke that spirit, we aged and textured the old brick walls, we recreated a vaulted drop ceiling that we found in a restaurant in Oviedo and we built a gorgeous hardwood-fired grill. Tertulia is by no means a sidrería, but rather the sidrería is a reference point for us.

When you cook for yourself, what do you make?

I love to cook over an open flame, especially seafood and vegetables.

What are some of the trips you have taken for inspiration?

I've traveled and lived extensively in Spain. I've also traveled throughout Asia, eating as much as I could handle.

What are your thoughts on global cuisine?

Every year the boundaries between cuisines get more and more blurred as techniques and ingredients become ubiquitous. I think it's extremely important to maintain culinary tradition just as much as it is important to continue to evolve. It's my feeling that culture is largely preserved through music, language, and food and more often than not, those three things go hand in hand.

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