Chef Seamus Mullen is a leader in raising awareness. With a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2007, the publication of his cookbook, Hero Food which focuses on the healing capabilities of different foods, and his acceptance of Celebrity Honoree in the 2014 NYC Walk to Cure Arthritis, Chef Mullen has brought this disease to light for many. Interview by Karena Wu
I have been a Physical Therapist for 14 years. Seamus and I were introduced by Wylie Dufresne, who is known for being proactive about taking care of his health and who was recently diagnosed with osteoarthritis himself. Seamus and I started working together in 2010 when he was trying to control the disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. It is a systemic arthritis where your immune system, which normally protects you against disease, mistakenly attacks your joints. RA affects 1.5 million people in the United States, if found in more women than men and commonly affects people between the ages of 30 and 60.
Chef Mullen has gone down a long and arduous path in resolving this. I am happy to share the fact that since he has altered his diet, resumed a regular workout schedule and has supplemented his health, his tests have been negative for the rheumatoid factor (RF). The RF factor is the autoantibody that is found in individuals diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The higher the level of RF factor found in your system, the increased chance of articular (or joint) destructive disease.
I sat down with Seamus at his delicious restaurant Tertulia to find out more about this special Chef and his work in raising awareness for a cause dear to his heart.
What made you decide to work with the AF and when?
I was diagnosed with RA in 2007 and I soon learned that Arthritis is something that affects people of all ages! I had been so naive when it came to understanding what it meant to live with arthritis that I was pretty sure others out there didn't know either and I wanted to do whatever I could to raise awareness and hopefully be an inspiration to others living with the disease.
What other events have you done with the AF?
I've done the walk, I've spoken on behalf of the foundation and participated in the Faces of Arthritis campaign and lots of press over the years.
What made you accept the Celebrity Honoree position?
This is a terrific honor for me, I've been living with RA for several years and I have gotten to a place in my life where RA doesn't hold me back or limit me and I hope that my experience can be an inspiration to others living with arthritis understand that just because they live with arthritis it doesn't have to derail their dreams.
How do you think this changes the walk?
Being the celebrity honoree makes the walk all that much more important!!
What has changed with you since your original diagnosis?
I went through a period of real emotional and physical distress and for quite a while it felt all-encompassing, but I've managed to get to a place through diet, exercise and lifestyle where I feel GREAT. This is a serious change from when I was first diagnosed.
What do you hope to inform the public about your participation?
The importance of raising awareness about arthritis as a disease that affects people of all ages. And for those of us living with Arthritis, to recognize the importance of working together, supporting one and other and ultimately not to let the disease get the upper hand! If you're living with arthritis, there is NO need to suffer.
What do you hope to gain?
It's always great to meet other folks in the arthritis community and broaden the outreach.
How does working with the AF impact your daily routine?
It's great to know that there is an organization out there advocating and fundraising for the disease. I try to be as open as I can about talking about the disease and always refer folks living with arthritis to take advantage of the resources available to them through the AF.
How does it impact your work routine? Generating a team, fundraising, etc?
My team is incredibly supportive, I think last year we had one of the largest teams at the walk!!
What do you thing other chefs think about your work with the AF?
I think most chefs feel a real responsibility to their individual communities…we all like to think of our restaurants as a part of our community and working directly with charitable organizations is a big part of our roles as members of our community.
How can you recruit other chefs to participate?
Arthritis is something that effects nearly all of us…even if you may not personally live with arthritis, chances are you have a friend or family member who does and working with the AF is a great way to help those loved ones.
How can you tell chefs to do other things for social responsibility?
I think it's pretty ingrained in the fabric of what we do. Most chefs I know are very concerned with social responsibility and contributing to their community.
What is the take home message for you and from this event?
Arthritis affects everyone!
Chef Seamus encourages his fellow chefs and industry colleagues to participate in the Walk to Cure Arthritis. The 2014 NYC walk starts in Foley Square Park and is a 3 mile (1 mile optional) walk across and back on the Brooklyn Bridge. It will be held on Saturday, May 17th. Registration starts at 8:30am and the walk begins at 10:00am. Fellow chefs and restauranteurs can form their own team to walk for a cure, or help generation donations to fund research and a cure for arthritis. Just visit www.walktocurearthritis.nyc.kintera.org.