Shop Like a Chef: Hush Bistro’s Chef Marc Anthony Bynum Shares His Tips

Ever wanted to shop like a chef? Want no more, as Hush Bistro’s chef Marc Anthony Bynum shares his tips to make the most of your trips to the market.

To market, to market to buy a fat pig…along with a couple of fat hens, some ducks, and maybe a side of beef. Marc Anthony Bynum, chef and owner of Hush Bistro in Farmingdale, New York, only has to stroll down the block to Farmingdale’s Main Street Meats to do most of his daily meat and poultry shopping. The Farmingdale native and two-time Food Network’s Chopped champion opened his first brick and mortar restaurant, Hush Bistro, just seven months ago, embracing both his hometown and local foodshed.

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There is no disputing that the catchphrase “farm-to-table” has become a bit overused, and, at times, misused. Bynum is fully committed to serving his patrons the best from Long Island’s farms, fisheries, and vineyards and visits these producers, ensuring his patrons get “the best of the best.” Idealistic, yet completely realistic, Bynum defines local as 500 miles from Farmingdale, which includes the rich Hudson Valley. In addition to carnivorous offerings from, literally, down the street, Bynum is “switching it up a bit and I am now working with d’Artagnan for some of the best organic meats and delicacies from upstate New York.” When shopping for beef or pork, Bynum recommends knowing the cuts; the best cuts (rump, ribs or loins) come from the back of the animal, while the working (for stews and marinating) cuts (shoulder, flank, and legs) come from the front. Don’t shy away from fat, he cautions. “Fat equals flavor.” A good cut of beef should have plenty of white flecks of fat. “A well-marbled cut is self-basting and will remain tender, moist and juicy. Super lean meats can dry out if not basted continuously,” explains Bynum.

Seafood appears, like most of Hush’s dinner offerings, as specials. Whatever is just-off-the-boat is what’s for dinner. Bynum’s number one rule when shopping for seafood is, “If it smells fishy, it isn’t fresh. Also, avoid finfish that looks slimy and has cloudy eyes, and shellfish that is gaping.”

Produce comes from Patty Gentry’s Early Girl Farm in Center Moriches, about 20 miles southeast of Farmingdale. Gentry, a professional cook for more than 20 years, is fully committed to growing everything organically. Her back-of-the-house years have yielded a farmer who is a stickler for quality who knows exactly what a discerning chef craves. Gentry’s mission resonated with Bynum. “I get whatever she sends. That’s how we work our menu,” explains Bynum.  He advises home cooks, “Know what is harvested in what season. Shop at farm stands, farmers markets, and green markets and get to know the farmer. Raspberries in February, while a treat, just don’t make any sense.”

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Bynum boasts an extensive list of Long Island wines, and all of the beer served at Hush is from Long Island. At the bar, thirsty patrons can indulge in imaginative cocktails featuring LiV Vodka, Rough Rider Bourbon, Rough Rider Rye, Pine Barrens Whisky, Deepwells Gin, and Sag Harbor Rum — all distilled on Long Island. “I have visited and gotten to know these people. It gives me a connection to their products and that connection is passed along to my customers,” explains Bynum.

Bynum’s locavore pledge is pragmatic. While a 500-mile radius can offer up an enormous bounty for many months of the year, this is Long Island — and Bynum must keep his patrons happy and returning. This means venturing beyond his self-imposed boundaries. Salmon comes directly from the Pacific Northwest, pumpkin swordfish is flown in from Honolulu, and he has added wines from Napa, France, Italy, Spain, and Argentina.

“I like to do my menus the way my colleagues in the city do it. Gramercy Tavern, Le Bernardin, and so on. I like to think that I am on the same wavelength as them,” explains the indefatigable Bynum. Ambition like this is why Long Island’s culinary landscape has just become a bit richer, and tastier.

Book a table at Hush Bistro to taste the best of Long Island’s bounty this summer.

Freelance writer Betsy Davidson is the editor-at-large of Edible Long Island magazine and a regular contributor to Edible East End magazine.