Chef Seamus Mullen helped introduce tapas to New York City, wrote a successful cookbook, and is a regular on the culinary shows and cutthroat kitchen competitions. But he didn't always know he'd find his passion behind the stove. Here, how Mullen found his way in the competitive culinary world and what's next for a chef who's (almost) done it all.
As chef and owner of the famed Tertulia, Mullen is synonyous with the Spanish dining scene in New York City. That's due in part to this high school Spanish teacher. Though he described himself as a terrible student, Mullen had a talent for speaking Spanish. His teacher encouraged him to go to Spain, where Mullen lived with a host family with a mom who liked to cook. Aware that he shared her passion for food, she encouraged him to try things he’d never eaten before (like squid and octopus), and something clicked.
After graduating college (during which he spent more time in Spain) with a degree in Spanish literature, he set out to become a chef, though in a nontraditional way. “I enrolled in culinary school for about a week," said Mullen. "Then I realized I kind of already knew this stuff.”
Knowing he needed formal training, Mullen decided to apprentice in Europe. But the question remained: France or Spain? At the time, the culinary scene in Spain was growing, becoming a forward-thinking food mecca for the culinary world. Also, he spoke Spanish. Decision made.
After several years working in top kitchens in Spain, Mullen returned to New York and saw a gap in the city's dining scene: where were the authentic tapas restaurants Mullen knew so well? In 2006, he opened Boqueria to much acclaim, and New York’s love affair with tapas took off.
Next, Mullen opens his first restaurant...