Artist in the Kitchen

Sal Presto’s bread sculptures are legends in the baking

by Jenny Hall AC ’04

Baker Sal Presto has become somewhat of a legend on campus. His unique bread sculptures, which he calls “edible folk art,” are one of the most anticipated treats of Lamont House’s spring senior celebration, and his baking techniques have been inspiring the Dining Services staff for the past

 His unique bread sculptures have made baker Sal Presto a campus legend.

twenty years. In 1994, he received the Gavel Award for his friendship with students and his contribution to the Smith community. “Sal is the best,” says senior Regan Gibson. “His bread is hands down my favorite part of the Lamont dining experience.”

What he’s famous for. Delectable pastries and breads that take the shape of doves, crabs, fish, flowers, and even Jason and the good ship Argo. For a holiday celebration at the College Club one year, he delighted professors with a life-size Santa in a sleigh pulled by all nine reindeer, made, of course, entirely of bread.

Smith in the family. Presto, 74, started at Smith in 1989 on the recommendation of his daughter Jenifer Presto ’85. Prior to Smith, he had a successful career managing restaurants and bakeries in Connecticut.

Memorable moments in dough. Through the years, Presto’s doughy designs have graced elegant Madison Avenue soirees and even the Ford White House; Mrs. Ford liked his angels and animals so much that she hung them on the White House Christmas tree.

No measuring needed. At this point, Presto mixes ingredients “according to feel.” In fact, a cookbook he’s been working on doesn’t have any recipes in it. “There are already too many books with too many recipes,” he says. “It’s more of an illustrated philosophy of cooking.”

King of the kitchen. “Sal has made us much more comfortable with the way we do bread,” says Rick Rubin, area manager of Dining Services. “He’s showed us new things and fine-tuned others. For example, we used to do whole breads and slice them. He showed us how to do small, fancier rolls that were just as easy to make. He has a knack and a talent for baking that inspires others. He’s amazing, a great jewel in the dining department.”

Fall ’09 SAQ