In 1995, as a husband and wife team, Michael and Mary Gassen set out to recapture a rarity: the neighborhood bakery, where everything was made on premises. At the time, a whole generation of customers were purchasing machine-made and not-so-fresh baked goods from supermarkets and coffee shops, the owners said. Michael Gassen was a trained baker, while Mary Gassen worked as a managing partner for a restaurant company. Upon leaving college in 1984, Michael joined his first large-scale bakery, La Seine, where he learned how to produce large, consistent quantities of virtually every type of baked good. During this time, he discovered his true vocation as a bread baker and went to Acme Bread Company in Berkeley to further his knowledge and experience. From Acme, he was recruited by Il Fornaio America to open their Orange County wholesale bakery facility in Irvine in 1992. This assignment provided experience in designing a bakery from the blueprints up, managing staffing and setting up the facility procedures and processes that would serve him well in future positions. It was here also, where he met his future wife, Mary Gaylord, who was working for Il Fornaio as a managing partner in the retail division.
Upon meeting his commitment to Il Fornaio, Michael and Mary eagerly returned to the Bay Area. Taking a position as bakery manager at Palio D'Asti in San Francisco, Michael had the opportunity to put his knowledge to the test in a small bakery concept. It was here that he also began making what would become his signature specialty breads. In 1995, Michael and Mary decided to take the plunge and open their own neighborhood bakery in Noe Valley of San Francisco. It is here that they realized their passion for revitalizing the neighborhood, artisanal bakery. The Noe Valley Bakery & Bread Company is a full-line bakery serving hand-made breads—with a specialty in fruit breads— pastries, cakes, and cookies. Michael is an active member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America, Food Runners, and has instructed at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. “We were fortunate to set up shop in the charming little community called Noe Valley.