I’ve known Mark since I first moved out to Southern California in 1998. He was working at Pacific Asia Museum as a grant writer when I began my job as a curator there, and one of the earliest conversations I remember having with him was about how to raise money for the first exhibition I was working on. “I need superlatives,” he’d say. “Tell me if this exhibition is the first of its kind, the biggest, the most ground-breaking, etc.” I had no idea how to fundraise for exhibitions, and working with Mark helped me in one of the most challenging areas of museum work, and one you don’t learn much about as an art history student. After years of working together, we became friends and David and I ended up moving into the same neighborhood as him and his wife Suzette, who had also worked a while at the same museum. Again, Mark prepped us well for life in our neighborhood, describing its population as “lots of people with tattoos pushing strollers.” That does indeed sum up Silver Lake, often called “the hippest neighborhood in the US,” where aging hipsters settle down to start families.
We certainly aren’t hipsters, and wonderful as he is, I’m sure Mark wouldn’t label himself one either. However, I learned something about Mark about ten years ago that made me wonder if he isn’t just a little bit hip. If not hip, then at least very, very cool. He’s not only a talented wordsmith and a helpful friend, but he is an extraordinary bread maker. For the last 40 years now, Stambler has been honing his bread making skills to produce wonderfully crusty French batards, levains and his L. A. Miche (see https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pagnol-Boulanger/728234027275245?fref=ts), which he sells locally in some shops and local food delivery sites. A few years back, when state law prevented him from selling his bread in local shops, he partnered with the Sustainable Economies Law Center to write and pass the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616) in 2012. Now, his efforts have been rewarded with blue ribbons at state and county fairs, and in 2014, Dessert Professional Magazine, has voted him one of the country’s ten best artisanal bread bakers. And his friends are often rewarded with the crustiest, yummiest bread at dinner parties…Today, Mark came by to keep me company while David had to run some errands. To thank him for his friendship, company and all the tasty bread that we’ve enjoyed from him over the years, I gave him one of our many chopping boards, something he will undoubtedly be able to use to serve his bread, which, thanks to all that grant writing training at the museum many years ago, I have no trouble describing as “the best bread in Los Angeles and well beyond.”