Mark S. Friend, a baker who was involved in the artisan bread movement and helped bring it to Kansas City, Mo., by founding Farm to Market Bread Co., has died.
Mr. Friend, 67, an expert in natural sourdough starters, founded his company with a partner in 1993 and prided himself on using high-quality, natural ingredients. He was also a founding member of the Bread Bakers Guild of America.
“He was heavily involved in the artisan bread movement early on,” said his son, John Friend, who is now president of Farm to Market. “He was able to start his own company in the evenings and was baking bread out of the back of a restaurant. They traded bread for rent, he and his partner, Fred Spompinato, and was a visionary in getting fresh artisan bread in grocery stores.”
The company started a model of delivering fresh bread to Kansas City area grocery stores seven days a week, closing only for Christmas. It’s a model the company continues to follow today.
Baking was a passion early on for Mark Friend, who started working in a donut shop near his home when he was in the seventh grade. He turned his focus to bread in the late 1980s when he learned to make sourdough in San Francisco.
“He always took pride in high-quality products,” John Friend said. “The sourdough and artisan bread movement was new so there wasn’t a lot of people in that, and I think he saw an opportunity there. He fell in love with sourdough, the idea of this living organism.
Mr. Friend died Jan. 23, 2022, in Kansas City and is survived by his wife, Genevieve Landregan, daughter Molly Johnson, and son John, among others.
Although retired, Mr. Friend continued to serve as a resource for the company.
“I hope he is remembered as a pioneer and visionary in the artisan baking community,” John Friend said. “He was at the forefront and laid the path for artisan baking and introduced the city to it and showed people what real bread could be and how bread was made for thousands of years.”