Burns offers customers sweet experience

Published 9:43 am Monday, June 22, 2015

PLENTY OF CUSTOMERS: Shoppers visit the farmers' market booth of Heather Burns at Vicksburg Farmers' Market Saturday.

PLENTY OF CUSTOMERS: Shoppers visit the farmers’ market booth of Heather Burns at Vicksburg Farmers’ Market Saturday.

It was just after 8 a.m. Saturday and people were already lining up by Heather Burns’ booth at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market to get their favorite sweet treats.

“Are you buying?” Lorraine Kent of Vicksburg asked as she looked over the selections of tarts, cakes, breads and cookies. “You’d better be, because this is the best stuff you can get.”

Burns’ booth, “Just Desserts,” has been a fixture at the farmers’ market since 2008, providing an assortment of pastries and breads that attracts a large following.

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“I’ve had people from 16 different countries come here,” she said. “Many of them are repeat customers. I have one family from Italy that comes here.”

Burns was one of the first vendors to set up at the market when it opened in 2008. She returns every summer. “(Former Mayor) Laurence Leyens called me and asked me to do it,” she said.

“I’m only here on Saturdays. I only sell for three hours a week and we sell on a first come, first served basis. The only time I do the farmers’ market is May through July. The rest of the year, September through April, I’m at the Highway 61 Coffee Shop from 9 to 12.”

When she sets up, Burns’ table contains an assortment of pastries and breads that would make any baker envious — plum and apple tarts, assorted pies, coffee cakes, specialty breads and a crowd favorite, oatmeal cranberry cookies.

Her skills in the kitchen are the result of training in patisserie from the Varenne Culinary School near Paris, France, and time spent as an apprentice at Chez Jamin du Longhamps in Paris and Moulin du Mougins Hotel, Mougins, France.

Her work experience is as varied as her menu of goodies and includes director of sales, oceanographic equipment manufacturing, work in mergers and acquisitions, sales and as a director of meetings for a trade association.

When she retired, she began baking.

Burns said she works about 60 hours a week preparing her specialties, and preparations for the farmers’ market begin Thursday and runs almost up to the time she sets her wares out for the customers.

“I finished about 4:20 this morning,” she said.

“The woman hasn’t slept since Wednesday,” said Nancy Gates, who has worked with Burns for the past two years, helping in the kitchen and manning the booth at the market.

Gates, Burns said, is an important element in the process, preparing the ingredients for each pastry in advance and packaging and labeling the finished product. “All those things to keep the process moving. It’s critical,” she said.

She said the success of her booth is the result of word-of-mouth from her customers.

“They just seem to tell everyone,” she said, adding she has enjoyed her experience at the market.

“I have watched young couples meet, get engaged, get married, have children. It’s been wonderful, because now I have children who are all grown up. And they have children who are growing up. I just love it. I meet people’s parents, they come and visit; it’s great.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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