Mary Gassen is a classically trained chef with an entrepreneurial heart. After completing a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business from Macalaster College in St. Paul, MN, Mary headed west to attend the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Upon graduation, she joined Il Fornaio America where she drew on her dual business and culinary skills as manager of several restaurants and bakeries in greater Los Angeles. She opened the Costa Mesa Il Fornaio restaurant as a Managing Partner, where she met her husband, Michael Gassen. Together they returned to San Francisco where Mary worked with Barbara Tropp at China Moon Cafe and later became Administrative Director of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, a trade association for women in the restaurant industry (where she served on the Board of Directors for three years).
In 1995, Mary and Michael opened San Francisco’s hugely popular Noe Valley Bakery & Bread Company, where Mary oversees the marketing, finance, and general administration of the business. For 20 years, she and Michael and their team have opened a wholesale bakery serving the entire Bay Area, a second retail store in the East Bay and an ice cream shop in Mill Valley. Through these experiences, Mary focused her talent and enthusiasm for starting new ventures and is now sharing her knowledge with other entrepreneurs through her coaching/consulting business, Launch.
Mary donates time and baked goods to many non-profit organizations, mostly focusing on education and entrepreneurialism. She served for three years as the Treasurer of the Noe Valley Association, is a member of the Expert Council at La Cocina, a non-profit culinary business incubator in San Francisco and on the Board of the San Francisco Chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier. Mary is the proud mother of two wonderful teenagers.