Marc Anthony Bynum has over a quarter century of experience in the kitchen, but treats every dish as if he’s competing for his next win on Food Network’s competitive cooking show Chopped.
The chef-owner is the mastermind behind Hush American Bistro, a soul-food-inspired restaurant that started in his hometown of Farmingdale three years ago and moved to new digs in Huntington this summer.
“Think of it this way,” he says, leaning forward. “If you have a restaurant that sells 600 dinners, and every table is getting three courses, that’s what, 1,800 plates that go out. That’s 1,800 times your reputation is on the line.”
Bynum has come a long way from his first restaurant job at the since-shuttered Margo and Frank’s Mermaid restaurant on the Nautical Mile. His resume includes stints at the Melville Marriott, where Executive Chef Dan Doherty mentored him before Bynum moved on to other fine dining establishments such as Tellers in Islip, Prime in Huntington, the closed Four Food Studio and Venue 56, among others.
“I’ve been fortunate to work at a lot of high-end restaurants on Long Island,” Bynum says. “They’ve all been creative — places where I can play.”
That playfulness comes through in the motto of Hush: “The food speaks.”
Just before the dinner rush on a recent Thursday afternoon, the chef sat at a small table near the front door of Hush and discussed the challenges of running a restaurant. Despite a thriving consulting business that takes him around the country, Bynum spends most nights in the kitchen. It’s all about quality control, he says.
The wall behind him is paneled with repurposed wood and dotted with white candles not yet lit for dinner. Edison lights dangle from the ceiling throughout the romantically lit restaurant. Even at 4 p.m., Hush buzzes with activity. The wait staff
mingles by the bar, trying a new wine that had just come in while prep cooks race around the kitchen.
Chef Bynum is well known as a creative force in the Long Island restaurant scene. But the notoriety he gained from Chopped was a game changer.
“It allowed me to go from local to national overnight,” he says. “That’s when I started to do more consulting, I started to travel more. I put up a website from the winnings. It was huge.”
Bynum has gotten a lot of offers to work in New York City, but remains fiercely loyal to his roots.
“I will not forsake my island for the city,” he says. “Long Island can be a challenge because you want to stick to your artistic integrity, but then you have some palates here that may not be as sophisticated as the food you want to produce. But I like to push that boundary, I put out the food I want to cook and I find that people come around to it.”
Starters at Hush Bistro include the WTF salad ($15), a creative mix of watermelon, tuna, ginger sesame vinaigrette and foie gras “snow,” and cornbread and biscuits ($9) served with maple brown butter and wild berry preserves. Small plates and entrees include ravioli ($16) served with ricotta, spinach, egg yolk, short ribs and sweet potato; Southern fried chicken ($14) with sweet potato puree and pickled cabbage; and duck leg confit ($18) with fennel puree, broccoli rabe, fennel pollen glaze and pickled radish.
There’s one thing not found on the menu at Hush Bistro: geoduck, a large and unsightly saltwater clam native to the West Coast.
“I’ve had to go up against it twice on Chopped,” Bynum recalls. “I guess geoduck’s just not a fan of me. Every time I go up against it, I just lose it.”
Hush American Bistro is located at 46-G Gerard St. in Huntington. They can be reached at 631-824-6350 or reststarinc.com/hush-bistro