As many of you know, I love to travel. I also love to eat. When I can combine the two, I'm a happy camper, but sadly, I can't always be running off to some exotic location just for the sake of dinner. The next best option is going to grab dinner around the corner but feeling like you are traveling because the food is so good that it transports you. THAT is what happened to me the first time I ate at Boqueria, a Spanish restaurant/tapas bar on 19th St. in Manhattan that was just down the street from where I used to work. It also happened to me when I ate there the second time, the third time, the fourth time...ok, you get the point. Boqueria quickly became my favorite restaurant in Manhattan, one that I found nearly every excuse in the book to frequent. I loved this restaurant so much that it is where I decided to have my going away dinner, donned in my finest heels, on my very last night in Manhattan before moving down to Baltimore.
What makes this restaurant even more extraordinary is that the chef, Seamus Mullen, and I share something in common besides an appreciation of delectable Spanish cuisine: rheumatoid arthritis. That's right, folks- one of New York's best chefs is laced with the same inconvenient disease as the rest of us.
I first discovered this when I was being filmed for WebMD's RA TV series, My Life with RA. The production crew I spent two days with had just finished filming the Cooking with RA series for RA TV featuring none other than Chef Seamus Mullen, and imagine my surprise when I found out the chef they kept talking about was the chef of Boqueria!
Clearly, this is a chef who doesn't let his RA come between him and his chorizo. Now, we all get the chance to root for one of our own because for the past few weeks, Chef Mullen has been duking it out on the Food Network's The Next Iron Chef America. He's kicking some pretty good butt so far, and I for one believe he can take it all the way to the finish. Having feasted on his food at Boqueria, there is no doubt he's got the culinary talent and the chops; knowing what he's had to overcome to get this far makes his success even sweeter.
The fact that he has RA hasn't been mentioned on the show, at least not yet. One could argue that this is a wasted opportunity given RA's sad, sad public profile, but I also think it's important that he isn't being singled out because of RA. This show is about the cooking and the competition, not the chronic disease.