A native of Oxford, Mississippi, Donald Bender fell into baking quite by accident. After working as a line cook here and there for 15 years, he moved back home and got a job at a new place some friends were opening near the Oxford square, Bottletree Bakery. He didn’t have any baking experience, so one of the owners, Martha Foose, called on a friend in California to come in and train him. Donald learned to bake bread, and he also found a wife. He and Martha married, moved around a bit, and then landed back at Martha’s family home place in Tchula, Mississippi.
They were recruited by Fred Carl Jr. of Viking Range Corporation to open a bakery and café in Greenwood, 25 mles up the road from Tchula. Mockingbird Bakery opened in the summer of 2004. After a couple of years, the restaurant was scaled back to become a wholesale bakery that’s now nestled in the back of the Viking Cooking School on Howard Street. Today, Donald bakes about 500 loaves a week: some for the Viking store, some for a handful of restaurants in the area, and, during the season, plenty to sell to the customers at the Downtown Greenwood Farmers’ Market. Donald’s breads are popular, especially the lemon zest-thyme loaves, but customers arrive extra-early to get their hands on one of his famous sausage biscuits.