How I Gather

Chef Seamus Mullen Wants Us to Cook Real Food and Feel Amazing

“Salt with authority.”

By Camille Styles
Mediterranean family-style dinner party at Chef Seamus Mullen's house in LA

ed. note: My interview and shoot with Seamus Mullen took place back in January when I was in LA for work. I’d originally planned to share this story last month, but held off because of COVID-19. Though we’re still social distancing, we’re all craving some face time with the people we care about. And for me, soaking up this friend-filled evening is almost as good as the real deal. Seamus’ recipes are perfect for a party, yes; but while we’re in #stayhome mode, I highly recommend getting cozy with them this weekend. Read on, and join me in dreaming about dinner parties when all this is over.

Word to the wise: if you’re ever going to a dinner party hosted by Seamus Mullen and he says the menu will be “a simple roast chicken and a nice salad”… don’t believe him.

He’s the sort of innately talented chef who makes cooking appear so effortless, so intuitive, that before you know it, he’s pulling dish after beautiful dish from the oven — lamb meatballs in a spicy marinara, whole roasted cauliflower, halibut with salsa verde. And just when you think that one small kitchen in Santa Monica couldn’t possibly handle another item, Seamus announces that he’s steamed some whole artichokes that he fell in love with at the market that day.

His love of food runs so deep that he just can’t help himself from going a bit overboard. And, speaking from experience, if you’re a guest at said dinner party, you won’t be one bit mad about it.

chef Seamus Mullen with whole roasted cauliflower in his home kitchen

I first met Seamus a few years ago at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. We cohosted a cooking demo and he made the most brimming-with-health Carrot Turmeric Hummus that was a feast for the eyes (and became a major hit on the site when we shared it soon after.) I also remember going to a party for the opening of the Goop pop up shop later that night, and Gwyneth casually introduced Seamus to the crowd as America’s most eligible bachelor. But I digress, and (sorry to disappoint) he’s no longer on the market… more on that below.

I loved learning about his wellness journey from hard partying chef with a myriad of health issues, to poster child for the miraculous power of whole, real food as the ultimate healer for the body and mind. From his cookbooks to his Instagram posts, Seamus now uses his platform to show how a focus on healthy fats, colorful vegetables, naturally raised meats, and wild seafood leads to optimal health – high energy, healthy gut, and increased metabolism included. And he does it all with the most delicious, crave-worthy food imaginable.

olive oil, vinegar, and other ingredients in chef Seamus Mullen's kitchen

Seamus recently moved cross-country from New York City (where he’d opened several restaurants) to Los Angeles where he co-hosts the goopfellas podcast and spends as much time as possible soaking up nature and with his girlfriend, Katie – who happens to be CEO of Carbon38, and who we promptly developed a massive girl crush on. We caught up with them both on a rare night off with friends… which brings me back to that aforementioned feast.

Scroll on for my interview with Seamus, the recipes he cooked for us that night, and a whole lotta hanging out that’s going to make you realll excited for when you can get your gang together again.

radish, orange, grapefruit salad recipe is a healthy and easy spring appetizer

Mediterranean family-style dinner party at Chef Seamus Mullen's house in LA

Seamus, tell us the story behind your health journey and how your cleaner approach to food developed.

I spent years and years as a professional chef taking care of others, cooking for others, focusing on learning technique and developing my career. The more my career progressed, the more my health suffered. I went from feeling generally run down with aches and pains- which I thought was normal given my profession – to repeatedly ending up in the hospital. Eventually I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis: a chronic, inflammatory auto-immune disease. I followed the conventional treatment path for RA for several years and my health continued to decline. I eventually got to a point where I was in and out of the hospital so frequently, with life-threatening issues, that I realized that if I didn’t make some serious changes to how I was living my life, I wasn’t going to be around for much longer.

I was fortunate to meet Dr. Frank Lipman, a practitioner of Functional Medicine, and he helped me get my health on track, primarily through reevaluating my relationship with food. I’ve been very fortunate to see the direct impact that food can have on my wellbeing. I’ve now been asymptomatic for RA and off all of my meds for 8 years, and I am very conscientious of my daily food choices and how they impact my overall health.

Santa Monica balcony with ocean view

What inspired you to make the recent move to LA, and what do you love most about your new home city?

I lived in New York for 18 years and as much as I love the city, it’s a bit of a pressure cooker. After a while, the intensity of the city can get overwhelming, and for years I had been yearning for a more relaxed pace of life, with more time spent outdoors, cycling, surfing, hiking and being close to nature. These are things that, while not impossible in NYC, are A LOT easier in a city like LA. I’ve been coming back and forth to LA for so long that it already felt like a second home long before I moved here, but now it really feels like home. The things I love most about this town are (obviously) the farmer’s markets, the access to the outdoors, the inspiring community of likeminded folks I’ve gotten to know, and of course my wonderful girlfriend who has made my landing in LA pretty smooth and easy!

chef Seamus Mullen and girl friend Katie Warner Johnson

chef Seamus Mullen seasoning veggies in his kitchen

Okay, on to food. Any tips for at-home cooks when it comes to making their food taste and look more chef-level?

First and foremost, don’t be scared of salt! Most home cooks are fearful of over salting and as a result tend to under salt their food. Salt with authority! Next always balance with acidity. I love using a little good vinegar to balance acidity. And then I always add fresh herbs to finish my dishes for a bright, fresh pop.

avocado, cilantro and jalapeno salad with anchovies, mediterranean inspired menu

What inspires you when designing a menu for a gathering?

I literally go to the supermarket or farmers market with zero plan. I look at what looks good, buy all the things I like to cook with and then I go home and start to put it all together like a collage. I like to try to celebrate each ingredient as much as possible, focus on making dishes that are simple and elemental.

radish, orange, grapefruit salad recipe is a healthy and easy spring appetizer

Get the menu for Seamus’s Radish, Fennel, and Grapefruit Salad right here!

katie warner johnson, CEO carbon38

What’s your top tip for keeping it simple when hosting?

Keep it loose, don’t overplan too much, casual, casual, casual. Finger food, sharing plates, anything to keep the action flowing! I always try to make sure that I’m still cooking when guests arrive, that creates a little theatre and inevitably everyone ends up gathering around the kitchen.

chef Seamus Mullen seasoning veggies in his kitchen mediterranean menu at dinner party in LA, whole boiled artichoke

What would we never find at one of your parties?

Hmmm….candy? I’m not a junk food dude, so candy’s out. Oh and you’ll never find any of those pre-made, frozen canapés from Trader Joe’s. We make things from scratch around these parts!

What are your top 5 essentials for hosting?

  • my Vitamix – I use it for EVERYTHING.
  • anchovies – I sneak these guys into so many things to amp up the umami.
  • excellent quality olive oil from Spain
  • Jacobsen’s salt
  • sexy platters for sharing dishes

I also always have anchovies, za’atar, and bone broth on hand.

tomato salad with anchovies, mediterranean inspired menu

What would your last meal be?

So simple: ripe, sliced heirloom tomatoes, sliced avocado, drizzle of delicious olive oil, fresh herbs and aged balsamic vinegar.

Mediterranean family-style dinner party at Chef Seamus Mullen's house in LA

Where was one of the best meals of your life that you’ll never forget?

hmmm….so many! Two that stick out in my mind: the first was the first time I went to Extebarri in the Basque country in Spain. I was in my twenties, and I went with my chef. It was an incredible experience, everything we tasted was kissed by smoke….even the baby eels and the sheep’s milk ice cream. It was a revelation in technique and produce.

The second would be at the Four Seasons in Hualalai on the big Island of Hawaii. I was a participating chef in the Chef’s Fest festival and we cooked an incredible meal all over open fire on the beach with the sounds of the waves in the background. Magical.

oven-roasted cauliflower head recipe for a vegetarian one-dish dinner

Get the recipe for this Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Salsa Verde here.

Do you reference any family traditions when you entertain?

My grandmother was a great entertainer and she threw fabulous cocktail parties…most of which I was too young to remember, but I will never forget her deviled eggs with caviar she would serve with ice-cold martinis. I wasn’t old enough for the martinis, but deviled eggs with caviar are still my favorite!

dinner party with friends, laid-back vibes in LA lamb meatballs and roasted cauliflower, mediterranean menu at dinner party in LA, whole boiled artichoke

Who are your dream dinner party guests?

The Obamas, Bono, Lizzo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Chelsea Handler.

dinner party with friends, laid-back vibes in LA

What’s the secret to a great party?

Bringing together a diverse group of friends, making sure that there is plenty of delicious food and drink and rocking good music!

dinner party with friends, laid-back vibes in LA

How do you “live life like you mean it” every day?

I make sure that every day I do something that is JUST for me, whether that means a walk on the beach, a hike, riding my bike in the mountains or going to the farmer’s market.

I try to make sure that regardless of what I’m doing, I’m 100% focused on that thing.

It’s too easy to get distracted and lose focus, and then give less than you’re capable of.

chef Seamus Mullen seasoning veggies in his kitchen

best spicy lamb meatballs recipe

Get the recipe for these Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Fresh Ricotta right here! (what’s left of them, that is.)

dinner party with friends, laid-back vibes in LA

Share your 5 favorite spots in LA:

Cookbook in Echo Park – I love their spice blends

Onda in Santa Monica for their grilled nopales salad

Pasjoli in Santa Monica – I order the salade d’endives

Takao in Brentwood for the Omakase

G&B Coffee in Grand Central Market. Get the turmeric latté.