Seamus Mullen, Continued: Sexism in the Kitchen, Being a Heartthrob Chef, and When the Press Messes With Your Relationship


Yesterday, we talked to Seamus Mullen of Boqueria about his upcoming cookbook, his favorite restaurants, and why you’ll never catch him bitching about a critic. Today, he talks sex, food, and media relations.

What is new at the restaurant these days?

We’re going to be doing a farm-to-restaurant program in the summer for local lamb farmers. We’re trying to bring in lamb from state farms and to get other restaurants to promote local lamb. Other than that, I’m at the greenmarket a lot with my chefs from both restaurants. The stuff that’s coming out now is wonderful, so we’re super-pumped to have all the local produce in. It was a long winter.

Do you cook much at home?

Not a whole lot. I would like to, but I live alone. So, unless I’m throwing a party, which I don’t do very often, I go to my bother’s house. He lives in Brooklyn. He has a wife and kids and at least every other week we have a barbecue outside. I usually cook for that.

We always ask women about sexism in the kitchen, but rarely ask male chefs. Is it something you’re aware of?

Alex [Raij] definitely made an interesting point, which is that men are always considered sex symbols because it’s a sexy profession for a man and not for women at all. It’s so ironic because cooking historically has always been a woman’s trade unless it’s a professional trade. Then it becomes a man’s trade. Sexism definitely exists, but because there are fewer women, when they do succeed they end up really standing out.

Funny you mention that because you’re one of the chefs labeled a “sexy chef.”

I think it runs the gamut from being flattering to being somewhat embarrassing. I’d much rather that somebody is interested in me or the restaurant because of our food rather than because of a sexy chef competition. So, of course, it’s flattering, but it’s also been problematic. I was dating a girl at one point and Time Out ran something about me being the most eligible bachelor without ever running it by me. She saw it and was like, “What the fuck is this? We’re dating and now they’re running you as the most eligible bachelor?” So it’s a little odd when your personal life becomes public. I’m not a huge fan of that.

Any trends you’re sick of seeing in New York restaurants?

I guess this probably sounds a little similar to Alex’s answer of using local products and all that as just a marketing ploy. I’m at the market this morning with four of my chefs and we have two carts full of produce that we’re using for the restaurant and I see five other chefs walking through the market with a bag of thyme and a bunch of parsley. Then they go back to their restaurant and wax poetic about being a market-driven restaurant. Just because you walked through the greenmarket and picked up a bunch of parsley doesn’t mean you’re a market-driven restaurant using all local products.

Ah, the greenwashing issue. Is it a major problem?

Again, it’s that thing of shut up and do it. We don’t put the names of our farms on our menu, but if you were to ask anyone in the kitchen where something came from — where the lamb came from, where the radishes came from — we could tell you the name of the farmer that we got it from. It’s really important for me to understand the provenance of food, but to put it out there and make it the most important part of what we do … I just want people to have a good time and really enjoy the food. I want them to come in thinking it’s going to be pretty good and to walk away and be like, “Holy shit, that’s way better than what I expected.” I’m a little tired of seeing every ingredient listed on the menu. I’d rather just see a wonderful tomato, and if I ask, “Hey, where did that come from?” If it’s labeled, it seems like, “Look at me. I do all the right things.” I have a lot more respect for people who quietly do the right thing.

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Like snack food? Munchy-type things? Yeah, I really like Triscuits and cream cheese. I have since I was a kid. It’s my favorite junk food.

Any plans for further expansion?

We’re always looking, but nothing happening right now.

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