Meet the top chef who determines where BC’s food comes from and where it needs to go.
As associate director of food and beverage for BC Dining Services, Bailey is responsible for all that is served in the dining halls and at catered events 364 days a year, work that involves menu engineering, purchasing, cost analysis, and more.
A native of Martha’s Vineyard, Bailey was always destined to be a chef. He got his start in the restaurant industry at a young age, and found himself working every day during the island’s summer tourist season. In high school, he had an opportunity to train in Lyon, France, and later graduated from the Culinary Institute of America. Bailey came to Boston College in 2001 to open the President’s Dining Room in Maloney Hall and has never left. Along the way he has been a second cook, production manager for catering, and most recently executive chef, a position he occupied for eight years.
Bailey assumed his current role during the COVID-19 pandemic, which, for a man whose job is mainly logistical, was exceptionally challenging. However, because BC Dining is self-operated with a full-time staff of 250, it doesn’t partner with a food contractor like many other universities. That made a big difference during the pandemic.
“The pandemic hit and you saw schools all around here laying off their staff. Boston College took a very different path with it,” Bailey says. “We were able to keep all of our full-time employees on board and busy working. In the true mission of Boston College, that meant providing food to homeless shelters, preparing meals for others in need. The feeling at the end of the day was great and for our employees to have an opportunity to do something a little different and be part of something bigger, it was huge. They’re still talking about it today.”
Keeping the entire operation in-house means BC Dining also shoulders the load for signature events like Commencement and Reunion, conferences, and on-campus weddings, in addition to managing athletics concessions and, of course, operating BC’s dining halls. Still, Bailey never loses sight of the main objective and says his staff understands students are the most important part of the job.
Boston College is like a small city where we’re all interconnected, and our number one mission is customer service. We want them to think of us as more than just the people that are providing their food.
FRANK BAILEY, P’26
“During exam time, we used to tell our teams, ‘Hey, these students are stressed. We need to be there to support them.’ It’s not cooking but it’s still something we can do. Now we don’t have to prompt anyone—it’s automatic. They write little notes on takeout boxes, like ‘good luck today.’ It’s such a small gesture, but it’s so impactful.”
Special moments like these pay off during events like Reunion, which is right up there among Bailey’s favorite times of year. “I’ll run into people that worked for me 15 years ago. It’s just a fantastic feeling—the fact that you made enough impact that they not only remember you, but they seek you out,” Bailey says. “That’s what keeps me going.”
Interacting with students and employees past and present is only part of what buoys Bailey. He also enjoys witnessing how patrons move about the servery and what types of foods they gravitate toward or avoid.
Bailey notes that today’s Eagles are better educated about food than ever before—they tend to eat healthier, more global foods, and the number of vegetarians and vegans has grown, albeit slowly, over the years. While student tastes may be savvier, they can also be ephemeral, and BC Dining occasionally tries to capitalize on trends like those found on the social media platform TikTok or through pop-up experiences.
Bailey’s task is to consider not only where BC’s food comes from, but where the entire operation needs to go. Increasingly, he relies upon technological advances and data in his decision making, critical assets to have under his chef’s hat in a time of supply chain uncertainty. Perhaps the best example of these advances is on display at the Tully Family Cafe and Commons in BC’s new integrated science building, 245 Beacon Street, where students can now order from touchscreen kiosks in addition to their mobile device while enjoying convenient, contact-free pickup through smart lockers.
“The largest auditorium is right across the way so we know when our biggest hits are coming because students have learned they can place an order 10 minutes before class ends—presumably, they’re still paying attention—walk out, scan their phone on the locker, grab, and go,” says Bailey, who has a dashboard on his phone that he uses to track real-time data. “To have something available to them that is freshly made custom to their order and have it ready when they come out is a huge perk. And it’s a baby step to where we’re headed.”
Despite the bells and whistles that accompany the student dining experience in 2022—plus the disruption caused by food delivery services like Uber Eats, DoorDash, and more—Bailey knows that BC still has a secret weapon: the human touch.
“Boston College is like a small city where we’re all interconnected, and our number one mission is customer service,” says Bailey, a consummate team player who lights up when speaking about his staff. “It’s the simple things like checking in with students, keeping an eye out to see if someone looks like they’re struggling. We want them to think of us as more than just the people that are providing their food.”
This approach is part and parcel of cura personalis, the Jesuit ideal that signals care for the whole person. Not only do Boston College students receive a formative education in the classroom, but they are impacted by their relationships everywhere at the Heights, even from those sources one might least expect.
Bailey tells the story of a former student-athlete who was overwhelmed with his practice and academic schedule and on the cusp of dropping out of school. The student sought out a Corcoran Commons cook with whom he was familiar, and the cook relayed a personal experience from his own life. After that relationship was formed, things turned around for the student.
“He didn’t feel like he needed a counselor, or to put himself in an uncomfortable position. He just needed someone to talk to,” Bailey says. “We might not be the first people you think of, but we’re available because we do feel like a part of that community.”
5 Interesting Things in Frank Bailey’s Office
SHOES. LOTS OF SHOES.
“I log around 20,000 steps a day, and a former employee taught me that changing your shoes mid-day helps with foot pain.”
“A print of The Angelus by Jean-François Millet reminds me that no matter how busy I may get, I should also take some time for reflection.”
PROOF IN THE PUDDING
“One of the items I am most proud of is a plaque from the Division of Student Affairs citing me as an “Outstanding Campus Partner.” It reminds me that with everything going on, the students and their campus experience is the most important thing.”
THE KNIFE SET
“This one is kind of obvious, but it is the single most important thing in my office for my line of work. My favorites are the Dalstrong Kiritsuke chef’s knife and the Victorinox 8-inch chef’s knife.”
“Every chef has at least one Sharpie on them at all times—it is sometimes the only thing that will work. Also, I always need to have a notebook and this exact pen at the ready.