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At 28 years of age, Barton Seaver would seem to have the world by the short and curlies. The chef owns his own well-received restaurant, Hook in Georgetown; he’s the media darling of the D.C. dining scene (and isn’t it about time we punched his dance card?); and he’s developed his own unique way of preparing delicate fillets such as sablefish and halibut (which you can learn about in this week’s Young & Hungry).

But before you slit your throat in jealousy, consider this: Barton Seaver cannot drink alcohol or eat breads.

After feeling unusually fatigued for months, Seaver decided to see an allergist. Tests revealed that the chef is allergic to grain smut, a fungus that infects cereal grasses such as wheat and corn.

“It’s just sort of a continuing annoyance more than anything else. It’s not been debilitating in any way,” Seaver says. “I can’t eat anything with any form of grain in it. It’s kind of miserable because I now have a largely antagonistic relationship with the world around me.”

As far as alcohol, Seaver’s doctor is still working with him to figure out the problem. “He said I did show some either toxic or allergic reactions to alcohol.”

So has Seaver completely given up all bread and alcohol? Is he, in other words, a walking nightmare for every French native?

“Every now and then, I just sort of test the waters to make sure they’re not lying to me,” Seaver says. “It’s actually funny because now that I’m off of it….when I do have something with flour in it, I will immediately feel very bad….Even just having a glass or two of wine every day, you don’t think it really affects you, but I will tell you that now…when I do have a glass, it profoundly affects me the next day.”

“May be it’s all the years of eight balls of coke and bottles of Jameson every night,” the chef deadpans.

Me: You’re joking, right?


Me: You’re not going to answer, are you?