On Wednesday night, chefs Andrew Carmellini, Seamus Mullen, Marco Canora, and George Mendes teamed up at Aldea and threw a dinner for Sandy relief that stands apart from other benefit meals. In a project called NYC Food Flood, the $300-plate dinner raised over $20,000, which the chefs will use to get food to the hardest-hit regions like Red Hook, Staten Island and Breezy Point.
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We'd trekked down the darkened streets from lower Chelsea, past a group generously serving hot food to anyone hungry, cops directing traffic with flashlights and flares, and people schlepping bags of groceries from just north of "SoPo"—the loving yet bitter name given to powerless lower Manhattan. Candlelight flickered from a random apartment, bright against the near-black streets that are unfamiliar in their emptiness. Yet once we found Tertulia, New York City instantly felt like home again.
"All of us wanted to do something, to give back, to help and feed people hit the hardest," George Mendes of ALDEA explains. "We thoughts about cooking and donating the proceeds to charity, but then we realized we wanted to take it one step further—to take those funds, rent a truck, and feed those in need." In the days and weeks following a fundraiser dinner, NYC chefs plan to rent a food truck and take turns driving to the hardest hit parts of the outer boroughs to cook hot food for the people who need it most.
The cuisine at Chef Seamus Mullen's Tertulia in the West Village features fresh ingredients that sing in a Spanish tongue. After working in some of Spain's top kitchens and stunning New York eaters at Boqueria (which he co-owned) and Suba, he was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease that wreaks havoc on the body. Recognizing a disconnect between the health food and restaurant food worlds, Chef Mullen spent three years working on his first book, Hero Food, out today. We talked with him about his book, his illness, and the flavors he loves to create.
In a season of highly anticipated openings, Seamus Mullen's Tertulia was up there with RedFarm as one of September's most talked-about. "[The] rich, deceptively sophisticated menu... does for tapas-style Spanish cuisine what Batali did for Italian pastas and April Bloomfield did for English pub food," wrote Adam Platt in New York Magazine last week. If you've been reading this early press, you'd believe it's the opening of the year. But that wasn't quite our experience.