Sleight Of Ham

For the fashionista who wants to wear her meat instead of smelling like it, Prestininzi prepares "gaga raw" meat slices.

By Pat Sherman
Photos by Brevin Blach

When a TV or film crew is shooting Take 22 of their romantic leads' dinner date, nothing quashes the mood faster than food that has begun to melt or wilt on camera.

That's where Fax Foods comes in. For more than two decades, the Vista-based company has provided the film, TV and food service industries with custom plastic replicas of everything from sub sandwiches to ice cream sundaes.

Items from the company's fake-out menu have appeared in TV shows including Pushing Daisies and movies such as Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Knight and Day.

"We did the sushi for Up in the Air, because George Clooney didn't want to smell (real) sushi in front of him through the scene," says Fax Foods proprietor Judy Prestininzi, a former bakery owner and house painter who purchased the business two years ago.

The company also makes the sweet con-fections, faux-ssants and plastic kale used in restaurant and grocery store display cases around the world.

Pricing runs the gamut from individual pieces of fruit (about $15) to a sixfoot sub sandwich and a roast suckling pig (about $850 each).

"It can be very frustrating, because when people hear fake food they think toys or the 50-cent stuff that you can get at Wal-Mart or Michaels," Prestininzi says. "These are not toys. These are serious advertising and serious money-saving products."

Though some clients initially balk at the price of her forgeries, Prestininzi says her wares quickly pay for themselves.

"We work with a company over in Hawaii that bought the pig," Prestininzi says. "They got sick and tired of baking (a real pig), setting it out and throwing it away every other day.  They figured that it paid for itself within the first month."

Fax Foods don't wilt, discolor or curdle. All that's required to maintain the ruse is the occasional swipe of a wet cloth to dispel dust.

"Fresh fruit only stays good looking for a few hours-the same thing with dessert trays," Prestininzi says. "There are a lot of sales that are lost at the point of purchase because they don't look appetizing."

Prestininzi prides herself on nailing the illusion of authenticity. When a company places an order, the actual food to be replicated is frozen and shipped overnight to Fax Foods, where its shape, size, color and texture can be examined and recreated. Roughly 12 employees use liquid plastic, resins and pigments to complete the job.

Recently, Prestininzi has fielded requests from fashionistas clamoring to emulate Lady Gaga's infamous red meat dress.

"We have roast beef in slices called the Gaga Raw," Prestininzi says. "We've had fashion designers from Canada and New York get stuff like that. We sent about 40 slices of bologna to one woman who made a bologna dress for Halloween."

Faxfoods.com

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