Claire O’Boyle Downey Named Director of Catering

Syracuse University Food Services announced today that Claire O’Boyle Downey has joined the hospitality team as the department’s new Director of Catering. She began her tenure at the University on February 16, 2023. Claire brings advanced education and years of experience from all areas of the hospitality industry. She studied at the Dublin College of Catering in Dublin, Ireland and relocated to the United States in 1988. Locally, Claire owned and operated her own catering business, “The Secret Ingredient,” serving the greater Syracuse area from 2005-2015. Additionally, Claire has served as the Director of Advancement at Bishop Grimes Jr./Sr. High School, the Director of Development at Most Holy Rosary School, and was most recently the Director of Catering for the Sherwood Inn in Skaneateles.

“I am ecstatic that Claire has chosen to lead the Syracuse University catering department,” says Eamon Lee, Executive Director of Hospitality. “Her dedication to grow and develop the team, oversee the onboarding of new catering and customer relationship management software, and refine operational processes — all while bringing her ‘hospitality first’ philosophy to each campus partner relationship — will help her to elevate catering services to new heights in the years ahead.”

Claire will spend this semester familiarizing herself with catering stakeholders, facilities, events, operations, and production. Long term, Claire’s focus will be on building strong campus relationships while aligning every aspect of campus catering with Food Services’ goals for hospitality excellence.

Claire will report to Executive Director of Hospitality, Eamon Lee, and will be based at the Campus Catering office at 201 Ainsley Drive.

After 35 Years with Food Services, Sue Bracy Steps Away

In many ways, Sue Bracy’s career growth at Syracuse University Food Services parallels the growth of the department. When she began her career at Syracuse University in August 1987, the department’s retail footprint was miniscule: only three cafes. She was hired to supervise the three cafes, never envisioning how large the department would grow. Over the next three decades, her career would take her from those cafes, to vending, then to Kimmel Food Court, the Goldstein Alumni and Faculty Center Restaurant, Catering Services, Goldstein Student Center, and finally, to leading the opening of the sparkling new food court at the renovated Schine Student Center.

“You can’t spell Syracuse without S-U-E,” said Jon Webster, executive director of hospitality. “Her fingerprints are all over our department and the University in an extremely positive, selfless way.”

Sue’s Syracuse University roots run deep. Her mom worked at the Carrier Dome for 25 years as the administrative assistant for then-director Pat Campbell. Her sister worked at Hendrick’s Chapel. Her family has had season tickets for over 35 years and she’s a proud alumna herself. Sue graduated from the University in May 1986 with a major in child development and a minor in psychology. While she acknowledges that a degree in child development doesn’t typically lead to a career in food service, Sue had worked at McDonald’s throughout her time in college and had actually earned 12 college credits through Hamburger University, the company’s Chicago-based training program.

Once she started her career at Syracuse, her hard work and obvious leadership skills meant that she steadily gained more responsibility. Sue was promoted several times, and eventually took on the role of co-director of Food Services in 2016.

“I’m often awestruck as to how Sue managed balancing a genuine concern for employees while maintaining the many policies and guidelines of the University and adhering to the rules of our union contract,” said Michelle Schieder, the campus’s SEIU co-chief steward of the food service division, who worked alongside Sue for most of her career. “She wore many hats and wore them well. She managed a piece in catering, the Dome, retail sales, dining centers, and negotiations.”

There were ups and downs over her 35 years. The fun came in catering special events and designing themed events and special parties for alumni. Stress was there too, especially managing the Food Services department through a global pandemic. She and her team worked nearly non-stop when Schine Dining reopened in spring 2021, in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her co-director at the time, Mark Tewksbury, will always remember the care she showed for Food Services staff members at the uncertain outset of the pandemic. Her employees were all designated essential workers who needed to be on campus every day.

“I’ll never forget the long hours as we navigated the start of the pandemic,” Tewksbury said. “Sue’s concern for the safety of our team while maintaining service to students who remained on campus was immeasurable.”

“We had no written procedures for how to do that,” Bracy said. “It was just a lot of creative maneuvering. COVID was a constant learning experience, one where people stepped way out of their job descriptions just to get the job done.”

It is those memories that will stay with her, she says. How hard the members of the Food Services department work. How much they care about the University and the people here.

“There are some long-time employees here that are just great,” she said. “These are the people who are the backbone of Food Services.”

Among her employees, Sue’s guidance and her willingness to lead are what they will treasure about her time at Syracuse.

“Under Sue’s direction, I was able to maximize my skills, because she constantly encouraged me to try new things,” said Keone Weigl, Food Services’ marketing manager. “Her management style gave me the confidence to become the best version of myself and a better employee for Syracuse University. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the chance to work with Sue.”

“Sue has always been tireless in her pursuit of making everyone around her know that she is in it right along with us,” said Catherine Brozaitis, Supervisor of Schine Dining. “Sue has been such a strong and positive influence on so many, and most consider her their mentor. Sue has garnered respect by the example she has set for all of us.”

Though her official last day at the University was at the end of February, she hasn’t left campus forever: she’s agreed to stay on as a temp to help the under-staffed department recruit, hire, and train new employees.

Stepping away from the hectic day-to-day operations of the department has meant that she’s able to spend more time with her family, especially her elderly father. Her influence will live on in the Food Services department, including with its new leader, Webster.

“I wanted to be a part of charting the future course of Syracuse University Food Services with her,” said Webster. “I cannot imagine being successful in this position without her guidance and counsel, and I wish her well as she moves to the next chapter of her life.”

Food Services Welcomes Executive Chef for Catering Services

Bryan Hammond
Executive Chef Catering Services

Executive Director of Hospitality Jon Webster today announced the hiring of Bryan Hammond as Food Services’ new Executive Chef for Catering Services. Bryan will begin work at the University on March 16, 2022.

“Bryan has great energy, is incredibly smart, and will be fun to work with,” said Eamon Lee, Food Services Executive Chef. “I’m excited to begin collaborating with him.”

Bryan joins the Food Services team from Turning Stone Resort and Casino, where he spent over nine years as banquet chef and culinary project manager and helped grow and develop the property’s restaurant operations.

As Catering Executive Chef, Bryan will develop new recipes and menu items. He will also implement a training program to continually improve the culinary skills of the catering team. Bryan will work out of the campus commissary on Ainsley Drive, though he will make regular appearances at catered events all over campus.

“Bryan’s positive attitude and skill will be a tremendous asset to our team,” said Paula Elerick, Associate Director of Catering.

Bryan graduated from Paul Smith’s College with a BAS in Culinary Arts and Service Management. He is a native Central New Yorker with University connections – his father is a professor at Falk College. One of Bryan’s goals upon taking this position is to cater for events that his dad attends.

When he’s not in the kitchen creating delicious food, Bryan enjoys hiking, biking, or playing video games. He and his wife are looking forward to raising their son and two chihuahuas in Syracuse.