Monthly Archive for: ‘May, 2017’

Marin woman blends green catering with circus acts

Vau de Vire Society cast of “The Soiled Dove” surrounds Emperor Norton, played by Klown MeeZee. Photo by Misha Kutuzov.

Jacqueline Burns is married to her job.

For better or worse.

Though it’s been almost entirely the former in what I’d describe as a passionate, lifetime commitment.

“These are my children, and this has been my romance,” the nine-year Sausalito resident says of the food dishes and installations that Work of Art, her green catering business, has been creating.

Her latest gig is inventing a four-course repast for “The Soiled Dove.”

That’s a circus-infused dinner theater in a big top the Vau de Vire Society erects at Alameda Point and recreates the 1890 San Francisco Barbary Coast red light district.

Jacqueline’s food will be served by faux courtesans.

It’s easy for me to connect with her vision and enthusiasm because both leap from her end of the phone during our lengthy conversation.

Especially when we’re focusing on the environment.

“Marin,” she tells me, “ties more into what I do — green catering — than I would have thought.”

What she does is combine culinary art and physical art by creating installations that showcase food arrangements as tasty as they are colorful.

Food in topiaries that look like trees, for example, a concept dating back to when Work of Art was a startup — when Jacqueline, now 54, was 28. “We inspired people at the same time we were feeding them with hors d’oeuvres, giving them something to talk about,” she remembers.

“That was cool.”

Green caterer Jacqueline Burns poses in front of a small display of hors d’oeuvres. Photo by Raúl Vargas.

Jacqueline’s aptitude to combine disparate things stems from her childhood on a sustainable farm in Ohio where “we also showed horses competitively and my mom was an installation artist.”

So she “blended my two worlds of naturing and nurturing — and studied hospitality and human nutrition at Ohio State University.”

When she later started Work of Art, she performed whatever task was needed — including, of course, cooking.

Today she’s the company overseer (which might be spelled m-a-s-t-e-r-m-i-n-d).

And which translates into presenting ideas to and negotiating with clients and vendors; creating the menu with the executive working chef, Jonathan Veenker; and overseeing every aspect of the operation.

Jacqueline couldn’t praise Veenker more.

Previously, she tells me, the company featured “smatterings. Now, with him, we’re doing it all: culturing, fermenting, pickling, hot and cold smoking, curing.”

Though she’s sole proprietor of Work of Art, she uses “we” and “us” a lot in our chat. “I’m a collaborator,” she insists, “so I always talk a team effort.”

Marin’s consciousness has clearly helped that solidarity.

She finds “endless inspiration” here, and in the Bay Area as a whole, she elaborates, noting that her company’s ingredients — 100 percent organic — come from “local farmers and other like-minded people who are nurturing soil very deeply or plucking things from the waters that are carefully stewarded.”

Work of Art’s biggest events so far have been a Twitter international sales affair, a Fort Mason extravaganza for Shopify and an opening night at Cirque du Soleil — all in the 1,500- to 2,000-person range.

“It’s pretty hard work,” says Jacqueline, who lives part-time in her second home in San Francisco, “and needs a lot of stamina and endurance — qualities I have, if you will, in spades.”

It certainly hasn’t been a bump-less road.

“I’ve lived through three booms and busts in the economy,” she notes.

And “in the beginning people used to look at us out of the corner of their eye when we’d talk about recycling or green foods.

“But we kept persevering. We kept waiting for the greater population to catch up with what we were doing.”

It has.

“The Soiled Dove,” which references what was once called a “woman of the night,” utilizes 40 performers and musicians — including acrobats and aerial artists, classically trained dancers, sideshow acts and circus freaks.

The event’s similar to Teatro Zinzanni but, according to its publicity, “way more risqué, decadent and delicious.”

So it requires participants to be 21.

Vau de Vire Society, which was founded in 1997 by director-producer Mike Gaines and his wife, Shannon, the company’s choreographer, encourages guests to dress up — especially in Victorian, Edwardian or courtesan costumes.

Though I’ll probably attend in street clothes, I can’t wait to experience it.

“The Soiled Dove” will run from June 9 through July 1 in a big top at The Point Alameda, 2001 Ferry Point, Alameda. Dinner performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; show alone at 9:30 p.m. Tickets: $50 to $130. Information: 415-294-1591 or

Contact Woody Weingarten at or

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