Summer may be coming to an end soon, but the stories of Summertime Badness live on. Summertime Badness, this year’s summer pop-up series from Bad For Business, has been one of the coolest things I’ve experienced this season. Chef Francis Maling makes amazing BBQ, but he also cooks with conviction for his community and himself.
I’ve been pretty busy this summer between adjusting to a new role at work and seeing my family for the first time in a minute. The past three months have been somewhat of a blur, but my conversation with Francis stands out to me still. When I called him up to ask him about Bad For Business and what exactly it is, the answer I got was both straightforward and complex. In short, BFB is a pop-up food concept where different dishes and menus are featured and prepared by Francis. The menus he has created in the past have ranged from poke to Filipino street food to a sea urchin tasting menu. However, BFB is also a reflection of Francis—his background, his beliefs, and his passions.
When interviewing small business owners and chefs, I make it a point to ask about who they are and not just their culinary background. Francis is a Filipino American who grew up in and still lives in Queens. To him, family is a big deal. And while he was a chef in a professional kitchen for many years, Bad For Business is a way for him to invest in himself and others around him. Francis regularly BBQs under the 7 Train bridge in Woodside, often during the weekend, usually starting in the early afternoon, and always featuring his scratch-made sauces and banana ketchup. He shares food that he grew up eating with the neighborhood he grew up in.
But BBQ goes beyond that for him; BFB’s BBQ has cultivated community and created a unique experience around food. Over the past year, BFB has seen more and more people coming through for BBQ. If you show up to Roosevelt Avenue between 61st and 62nd on a lucky day, you can catch Francis with a karaoke machine, singing and inviting customers and friends to sing too. The music and the smoke from the grill are a perfect match for a summer evening, and the marshmallow that comes with the BBQ hotdog is a nostalgic touch for many of the friends and customers.
While BBQ is Francis’ main offering nowadays, he consistently creates new menus for his pop-ups. “I want to keep pushing myself creatively,” he said. “A lot of people might expect some dishes from me, but changing the menu means I’m pushing myself and cooking for myself.” And likewise, BFB was created by Francis for himself. He BBQs on days that he wants to and he participates in pop-ups and special events that feed his creativity and have meaning. In fact, he started BBQing in Woodside soon after the capitol riots in January because he felt that “if they can get away with that crime, I can get away with BBQ on the street.” Francis also has a sign that reads “Love our people like you love our food” displayed during his pop-ups, due to the rise in violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic. Bad For Business isn’t just a food concept, but a food concept that is truly based on the chef and his convictions.
The name “Bad For Business” stems from taking actions that are thought to be bad for business in the restaurant industry. “I gave a lot to the business and restaurants I was in,” said Francis, “But the success of the brand is more important than your health and family, so turning it around is ‘bad for business.’” He now operates BFB when he wants to, developing his concept and style, and taking chances that are meaningful. This also allows him more time to do other things he loves and spend time with his family. He explained that he chose the banana logo and his catchphrase “Don’t Slip” in order to remind himself and others not to miss out on opportunities that may be crucial.
“It’s all for me and making myself happy,” Francis said of Bad For Business. He added that he sees this as a way to be invested in himself and people rather than corporations and profit. And frankly, I think you can taste it in his cooking too. There’s something very special about knowing the care and time that went into a dish and getting to know the chef while he fires it up for you. (And don’t sleep on the sauces he puts on his food, ask for extra.) On top of that, it’s inspiring to know why Francis works on Bad For Business the way he does and how he sticks to what he is passionate about and believes in.
Bad For Business is returning soon and you can get more BBQ and other culinary creations from Francis. Keep your eyes peeled for karaoke and BBQ specials such as spiced ribs and lechon sandwiches! And most importantly, don’t slip.