If you have ever eaten a meal at LDC, chances are good that Frenchy Jacob swiped you in. Arguably the face of LDC, Frenchy is retiring at the end of this term after twenty-nine years of working with Dining Services at Carleton College.
Although Frenchy has been visible from the front of LDC for the past few years, that is not where he began at Carleton. “Twenty-nine years ago, I was out of a job,” Frenchy said. With plentiful food service experience, he received a job offer from Dining Services at Carleton, where he “did all different jobs; the salad bar, dishes and a grill cook.” Behind the salad bar, Frenchy began to form relationships with students, who made his work enjoyable. After some time at the salad bar, Frenchy moved locations within the kitchen.
Throughout all this time, Frenchy was a student favorite. He also quickly became known for his music. While cooking, Frenchy never failed to bring along a large speaker. He played music loud enough for all to hear, and began a suggestion list for students to add song requests.
During his time at Carleton, Frenchy said that “there is not one experience or one event that is the best.” Instead, he appreciates his collective time at Carleton—from conversations in passing with new and different students every day, to bigger moments like the year he DJ-ed at Spring Concert. There is one thing for sure that Frenchy has made clear—his love for the students cannot be overstated.
This year is actually Frenchy’s second retirement. “When I turned sixty-five and a half, I retired, and then the director offered me a job as a checker, because I loved the students,” French said. Since taking the job, “I loved it ever since,” he added.
Before working at Carleton, or even living in Minnesota, Frenchy lived in Germany, where he was born and raised. So this begs the question: why does everyone call him Frenchy?
At age fifteen, Frenchy moved to the United States and started high school. “I couldn’t speak any English when I moved over here,” Frenchy said. He was an avid language learner, so while he was learning English he also took introductory Latin and French at school. He stuck with these languages and, he said, “the next year I took second-year Latin and second-year French and Spanish.” From there, the path to his nickname was relatively straightforward. Simply because he was taking French, “some students in high school gave me the name Frenchy,” he said. It caught on, and soon his whole French class was using the name. Needless to say, Frenchy stuck; and he’s been going by the nickname ever since.
Checking at LDC is the ideal situation for Frenchy because it puts him right at the front of the dining hall where he has an opportunity to connect with students and experience the energy they bring into the dining hall every day. And although seeing so many students every day brings Frenchy joy, unfortunately, COVID-19 has had an effect on this job. There were few students on campus during Spring Term, and interactions are limited now. “Ever since COVID-19 started I can’t connect, get close to the students no more,” Frenchy said, “and that’s why I’m leaving soon.”
Frenchy’s optimism and the joy he derives from his job is tangible. For years, when swiping into LDC, students have always known that they will be greeted kindly. Frenchy says that he does not have any specific plans for retirement, but he is excited to relax and have some more free time, especially once the end of the pandemic comes.
The print edition of this article incorrectly stated that there were no students on campus this past Spring Term. About 300 students remained on campus in the spring while classes moved online due to COVID-19.