It is 11 a.m. on a weekday morning when Marc Bynum drives a barely battered black meals truck into the nook of a Farmingdale car parking zone and begins prepping for lunch service. Assisted by a lone prepare dinner, Christian Merino, he activates the generator and organizes his mise en place. He preheats the flat-top grill and activates the five-gallon pasta cooker to convey the water to a rolling boil. A bit earlier than midday, he hangs his menu onto the facet of the truck, retracts the panels that cowl the home windows. Hush Truck is formally open for enterprise.
In 2017, Bynum had ascended the summit of Lengthy Island eating. After a decade of distinguishing himself in different individuals’s eating places, the chef had been working his personal, Hush Bistro, for 3 years. Fulfilling a lifelong dream, he’d opened the 26-seat bistro in his hometown of Farmingdale and had been rewarded with extra enterprise than he may deal with. Now he was hitting the large time, partnering with a longtime restaurant group and shifting Hush to bigger premises smack in the course of Huntington Village. In 2018, he and his companions opened a second Huntington idea, MB Ramen. However by the tip of the yr, he was gone from each eating places, in addition to from a short-lived enterprise in Bay Shore. And he stayed gone.
Why Bynum, 43, took a three-year break from the restaurant scene is sophisticated, however the backside line, he declared, is: “I’m again. And it’s time to go to battle.”
Speak to Bynum for any size of time and also you’ll be struck by his frequent use of martial terminology. His “battle,” “wartime” and “battles” check with concentric rings of battle: On the middle are the fights he wages towards himself, the despair and anger which have plagued him since childhood. The widest rings are societal — racial strife, class battle, political disaster.
The intermediate rings pertain to the present eating tradition. Bynum fights towards the concept that DoorDash can substitute the restaurant expertise. A grasp of social media, he nonetheless rails towards the way it has distorted modern delicacies. “How a dish appears to be like is nothing in comparison with the way it tastes,” he mentioned. “And simply because somebody has 100,000 followers doesn’t make him a chef.”
Bynum knew he wished to be a chef from the age of 14. “My mom mentioned persons are all the time going to be sick and persons are all the time going to be hungry,” he recalled. The medical-school route was a non-starter “as a result of it was … extra faculty.” However from the second his Nassau BOCES teacher, Mario Bucci, put a knife in his hand, he knew his future was within the kitchen. Throughout highschool he received a job at Margo & Frank’s Mermaid in Freeport then went on to numerous fast-food eating places and the Melville Marriott. In 2004 he was working at Carlyle on the Inexperienced in Bethpage when “I noticed a Black chef, the chef of Tellers, on the quilt of Half 2 in Newsday and I mentioned that was going to be me.”
5 years later it was. He had first began attracting native consideration in 2007 because the chef at Rookies, the sports activities bar that preceded The Rust & Gold in Huntington. After a brief stint on the Bohlsen brothers’ just-opened Prime in Huntington, they appointed him govt chef of their Islip steakhouse, Tellers. In 2009, that job received him his “cowl,” however by the tip of the yr he had left the restaurant.
In 2010, Bynum received two episodes of Meals Community’s “Chopped” and, by means of his new consulting enterprise he opened Venue 56 in Hauppauge, Cue 9 in Levittown and Moo Burger in Brooklyn, amongst different eating places. The cash was good and the dearth of dedication suited him. “I prefer to be on the transfer,” he mentioned. “I like constructing ideas, setting them up and placing within the lighting, determining the music. Then it’s 90 days and I’m out.”
However he additionally yearned to construct one thing that expressed his personal imaginative and prescient, and to construct it in Farmingdale. It took over a yr however in 2014, Hush Bistro opened in a former deserted grocery that he gutted and designed. The tiny restaurant was dominated by a 12-seat bar behind which was the open kitchen. It was right here that he first conceived the Hush burger, topped with aged cheddar, bacon-onion jam and a sunny-side up egg, and the rooster wings that had been confit-ed in a single day in olive oil steeped with cinnamon, coriander seeds and star anise earlier than getting sear and a smear of gochujang, siracha, honey and yuzu.
And it was at Hush that he conceived the coffee-chipotle ribs that, in 2016, appeared on the quilt of “O, The Oprah Journal” as “the best ribs Gayle’s ever tasted.” He additionally took residence a 3rd “Chopped” win and purchased the Hush Truck — although it largely stayed within the car parking zone behind Hush.
Bynum had full management, however that created its personal issues. “I received bored with it simply being me,” he mentioned. “I wanted assist with the burden of the place — the payroll, the lease, the fear about checks bouncing. I might actually drive by the restaurant to see if they’d minimize the fuel off — I may inform they hadn’t if I may see the pilot mild on the range flickering.”
Then, too, there was his ego, which wished an even bigger stage in a warmer setting. In 2016, Bynum partnered with Reststar Hospitality Group that operates, amongst different Lengthy Island eating places, Cafe Buenos Aires and Bistro Cassis in Huntington. Bynum took over Salumeria Pomodoro and turned it right into a Hush Bistro twice the dimensions of the unique. A yr later he opened MB Ramen to take a deep dive into the Japanese noodle dish.
However the partnership with Reststar lasted lower than a yr (though MB Ramen has thrived and is planning a second location in Port Washington). Bynum’s subsequent enterprise, the much-ballyhooed Fatwood in Bay Shore, closed after 5 months.
“Hush was the place I felt most alive, however the ego of my anger, the anger of my ego, that’s what received in the way in which.”
Bynum concedes that he was not an important accomplice in both relationship. “Whether or not I used to be the worker, the boss or the accomplice,” he mentioned, “I all the time felt like I used to be the one horse within the race, doing all of the grunt work but in addition probably not trusting anybody else to do it.” Not solely was he alienating his friends, he drove away staff. “Once I was developing,” he mentioned, “I used to be put by means of hell. And I put my cooks by means of hell. I wished them to do issues the best manner however individuals need to really feel like they’ve a function at work. for those who maintain turning over employees you’ll be able to’t become profitable.”
Other than a summer season Hush Truck pop-up at Prime in the summertime of 2019, Bynum spent the following three years out of the culinary highlight. He cooked at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore and he catered for vaccination websites in Lengthy Seaside, Previous Westbury and Aqueduct Racetrack. And he stored up the consulting enterprise. However he turned most of his power inward. “I used to be in my fortress of solitude,” he mentioned. “It was time to check out myself.”
Underlying all his struggles, he got here to imagine, was an unquenchable anger that stemmed from being deserted by his father earlier than he was born. The ache got here into sharp give attention to Father’s Day in 2021 when he was reflecting on the day he’d simply spent along with his three children in Greenport, how he’d summoned them again from the surf when it was time to go. “I noticed I don’t even know what my dad’s voice seems like,” he mentioned. “He may name out to me and I wouldn’t understand it’s him. That rocked me. And I cried like a child.”
A second supply of ache, he mentioned, was that ever since he began his ascent by means of Lengthy Island’s fine-dining world, he all the time appeared to be the one African American chef. “Developing on this trade the place I’m the one Black man within the kitchen, it was tough. I used to be at locations the place they’d let me prep however not put me on the road. Afterward, I’d get priced out of an actual property deal after which I’d see a white-owned restaurant take over the identical area for much less cash. The anger fueled me, but it surely put a chip on my shoulder, made my ego even larger.”
The additional away he received from the unique Hush in Farmingdale, the angrier he was at himself for succumbing to the temptation of larger and higher. “Hush was the place I felt most alive,” he mentioned, “however the ego of my anger, the anger of my ego, that’s what received in the way in which.”
Shortly after that fateful Father’s Day, he had one other breakthrough, a name to motion. And it was the meals that referred to as. “I used to be engaged on this soba salad for a shopper and it was too good, I didn’t need to give it up.” That salad — chilly buckwheat noodles, pickled shiitakes, carrot, daikon, purple onion, mint, basil, cilantro and ginger-sesame French dressing — turned the primary merchandise on the menu on the Hush Truck. The burger, the wings, the ribs all joined in, together with 4 varieties of ramen (pork, duck, vegan mushroom-squash and miso lobsters) and some extra bowls.
The truck affords flexibility — he’s already been in two Farmingdale grocery store parking heaps, and a extra everlasting residence for the truck alongside 110 is being negotiated. (The truck’s weekday whereabouts could be tracked through Chef Marc Anthony Bynum on Fb and @chefmarcbynum on Instagram.) Weekends are his personal to do non-public occasions or simply sit back. It’s additionally a return to the open kitchen the place he can have interaction his prospects as he’s cooking for them.
He doesn’t envision being on the truck a yr from now, however he says he’s dedicated to the Hush idea and to increasing its attain whereas staying in Farmingdale. “I need to prepare younger children to prepare dinner. I need to assist construct a community of Black cooks on Lengthy Island. I need to get into the group, educate of us about consuming higher, consuming extra greens.”
It’s a giant problem however he’s up for it. “After every little thing I’ve been by means of, why am I right here?” he mentioned. “There must be an even bigger function than only a restaurant.”