Featuring: Carson Ting, Chairman Ting Industries Inc.
Signing off his work of art with his signature ‘Chairman Ting’ tag, Carson Ting of Chairman Ting Industries finalizes another 9-foot-tall custom illustration of the map of Vancouver. This map in particular features the most special requests he’s ever done – including a handful of iconic Vancouver landmarks, caricatures of people doing activities like drinking wine and walking down Davie Street, and even hidden easter eggs that are meaningful to his client, Emelle’s Catering.
Carson takes a step back and has one final look at the incredibly detailed landscape he’s drawn by hand and he feels an overwhelming sense of Vancouver pride.
An award-winning art director and illustrator, Ting’s Vancouver art and design studio contributes to the city’s thriving art scene. Here you don’t have to go to galleries to get a taste of what the art community has to offer; you can marvel at the creative works of many local artists just walking down Main Street, the hub of the Vancouver Mural Festival.
If you find yourself near Main Street and 2nd Ave, you may come across one of Ting’s larger murals, titled “Wild Ride”, on the side of Swiss Bakery which was created for the Vancouver Mural Festival in 2017. This piece measures just over 98 feet wide and 15 feet tall, taking his team a total of 7 days to complete.
“Our maps and murals are inspired by the thriving sense of community found in Vancouver and our love for telling stories big and small,” says Ting.
“We are a tiny studio based in Vancouver. In fact, we’re so tiny that we named our company Chairman Ting Industries Inc. just to be silly,” says Ting. “However, although tiny, we still have the capability to scale up to take on bigger and more diverse projects if required by bringing in very capable partners.”
Despite being nano-sized, Ting and his team have worked on giant global brands like Mercedes-Benz Daimler AG, adidas Originals, Microsoft, AT&T, Jameson Whiskey, The Webby Awards, The NHL, Red Bull Canada, Native Shoes and much more.
“We pour 100% of our hand-crafted work into everything we do. We hand pick all our projects due to our small size. Every project we take must fit our ‘fun’ criteria because life is too short for boring work.”
Being a big fan of Emelle’s Catering, Chairman Ting Industries is honoured to work with a company that shares a common set of values – like giving back to the community and putting people first. Emelle’s catered the studio’s end-of-year party – helping them to celebrate a successful 2018 by bonding over a delicious custom menu of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres.
Check out Ting’s custom art installation at the Emelle’s Westside Kitchen, at 177 West 7th Ave.
Featuring: Steve Chamli | General Manager, The Law Courts Inn
After 17 years spent working in hospitality for the Hilton Orlando in Florida, the home of Disney World, Steve Chamli decided it was time for a change. He moved to Vancouver to assume the role of general manager for The Law Courts Inn, a club and restaurant run by the Law Courts Society that is located in the Supreme Court Building directly adjacent to Robson Square. When Chamli saw the venue, he knew immediately that it had the potential to become a world-class setting for the city’s poshest events.
“The Law Courts complex is, in my opinion, a testament to Vancouver,” he says, citing the work of world-renowned architect Arthur Erickson and landscape architect Cornelia Oberlander, the Vancouver natives responsible for the building’s design. “It’s a one-of-a-kind structure—an homage to Vancouver architecture. The building looks more modern as time goes on, and the landscaping makes it come alive in all seasons.”
Chamli’s vision was to bring high-end hospitality to the space—quality and service as prestigious as the design. His standards were high. The Hilton Orlando’s proximity to Disney World meant that during his tenure there, Chamli was expected to uphold not only Hilton-level standards of hospitality, but Disney-level standards. And if the hospitality industry had a Rolls Royce, Disney would be it.
Disney may seem like a strange juxtaposition for the Law Courts Inn, but the demands are more similar than one would think. Both require service professionals to bend over backwards in order to convey an experience that lives up to the expectations of the clientele. At Disney World, that expectation may be “fun, friendly, and always with a smile,” and in no way is it acceptable to ruin or tarnish someone’s experience of Disney World. The Law Courts Inn has different but similarly exacting criteria.
“Managing events in the Great Hall is a very intricate situation,” explains Chamli. “You’re managing the needs of the customers, which are very high, but also the needs of the government, of the landlord, and of the justices in the Law Court Society who have their own standards for events.” It’s highly political and highly complex. Urgency, professionalism, and adaptability are key.
To find the right catering company for the job, Chamli set up a bidding process for management of the Great Hall. Many of Vancouver’s highest profile caterers applied. After an exhaustive evaluation process, Chamli chose Emelle’s Catering to be the exclusive caterer of the Great Hall. They weren’t the largest, nor the best known, but after meeting the owners and speaking with the team, Chamli knew they were the right choice. “We felt nurtured and cared for, like part of the family, right from the get-go,” he says.
In the years since, Emelle’s has catered weddings, corporate events, association events and graduation ceremonies in the Great Hall, and they’ve never failed to impress. “They do business with integrity,” says Chamli, who loves Vancouver but has a little less love for the laid-back working style so common on the West Coast. “People take a day to return a phone call, two to reply to an email,” he laments.
“You need an icon of Vancouver catering to run a Vancouver icon.”
From general communication to sending contracts, following up with clients, organizing tastings, or attending site visits, they’re on the ball. When challenges or changes arise, some contractors turn to the fine print in their contract. “That’s never happened with Emelle’s. Whenever we’ve encountered challenges, Emelle’s has always, always taken the high road.”
In Chamli’s eyes, Emelle’s embodies the best of old-fashioned values. They do business on a handshake, and their word is worth its weight in gold. “This translates from the top-level management down through the entire line of their team,” he says. “They provide service that routinely exceeds our expectations. But then I suppose you need an icon of Vancouver catering to run a Vancouver icon.”
Featuring: Ozzie & Elliott Kipnes | Owners, Hot Wax Entertainment
Ozzie and Elliott Kipnes like to entertain. In fact, they’re entertainment industry pros—Ozzie, a former caterer and event planner, and Elliott, a professional DJ (one of the first to run a legitimate business in DJ and music entertainment in Vancouver). Together they run Hot Wax Entertainment, a DJ and entertainment company that’s been setting the tone at some of Vancouver’s highest profile events at venues like the Vancouver Golf Club and Brock House Restaurant for over 30 years. Whatever experience the client wants, Ozzie and Elliott design and deliver.
When it came time for Ozzie and Elliott to host a party for their 25th wedding anniversary, there was no question that it was to be a fancy affair. Celebrating with family and bringing people together is in their DNA. They began to plot their perfect night, but as the plan took form—a white-themed evening for 100 guests, reminiscent of Vancouver’s classiest white party, Dîner en Blanc—Ozzie and Elliott decided that it was time to go from host to guest at their own event. It was time to enjoy the experience themselves.
That meant stepping back, a difficult thing for Ozzie who is a self-described perfectionist. Moreover, it meant finding a company that could wow two seasoned entertainers and their guests who had become accustomed to the Kipnes standard. For Elliott, Emelle’s Catering was the obvious choice.
The couple’s first introduction to Emelle’s came in 2006 when Ozzie, having just taken over sales and marketing for Hot Wax, met Emelle’s CEO Mary Lee Newnham and Catering Sales Director Nicole Burke at a business association for event professionals. Impressed by their experience and know-how, Ozzie wanted to learn from them and decided the best way to do that was to partner up. In the years that followed, the two companies did hundreds of events together, everything from large public celebrations to small private parties for Vancouver elites, and a mutual respect, trust, and friendship evolved between them. “Emelle’s had catered thousands of events. We’d worked with them ourselves, we knew their staff, and we knew the guests were always impressed,” says Elliott, confident that, from the serving spoons to the staff, Emelle’s would oversee every detail.
“Hiring Emelle’s was like Elliott’s anniversary gift to me,” laughs Ozzie. “It was his way of letting me be a guest in our own home.”
And Emelle’s ensured that she was. Every time Ozzie suggested she help with the planning, Emelle’s Director of Catering Sales, Nicole Burke, answered with an emphatic “No!” In the end, Burke allowed Ozzie to take on one task of her choice. “I decided to pick the candy bar,” says Ozzie, “I got to focus on that and be a part of things.”
On the night, all Ozzie had to do was dress in white. “And breathe!” she quips. Emelle’s set up colourful food stations around the house, the feature item being a layered white cake, each layer a different flavour. Every station gave guests something new to savour. “Even the veggie dip, the way it was designed, was an experience,” remarks Ozzie. “The radish dressed as a flower, the carrot that was smiling up at you from the wheatgrass. It made the food come to life.”
The event was such a hit that when Elliott’s 50th birthday party came around, there was no question who would cater the 80s-themed affair. Held at the UBC Boathouse, the showpiece of the night was a double ice luge with a photograph of Elliott set on top and bottles of tequila set to the side. Toasts to Elliott raced down the ice all night as guests sampled a new menu tailored according to Elliott’s style and tastes. Says Ozzie, “When you work with Emelle’s, it’s like synchronicity. It just feels right. It’s not just a job. It’s so much bigger than that. For us, it’s making memories.”
Featuring: Melissa Cameron | Pastry Chef, Emelle’s Catering
Every day, Melissa Cameron goes to work and does what the child in all of us would love to do—play with her food. The young baker approached Emelle’s Catering five and a half years ago. She’d been working in the restaurant industry and was eager to expand her horizons, to show off her skills and her style. Her first days at Emelle’s were spent baking cookies and squares, but it didn’t take her long to make an impression. Today, she’s the pastry chef and is tasked with making phenomenally elaborate desserts for Emelle’s catering clients.
Though progress is being made, in the largely male-dominated restaurant industry, women more commonly occupy supporting roles in the kitchen. For Melissa, running her own department has been a welcome change of pace.
“The company is owned by women, run by women and, in my department, I have my own say over what I do,” she says proudly.
“When Melissa joined us, the pastry department became an actual department,” says Mary Lee Newnham, CEO and Executive Chef at Emelle’s, and the department is driven by Melissa’s love for her work. “I love the beauty of pastry and its presentation,” Melissa says. “I consider myself really lucky. I get to come here and be creative and make the things that are in my mind. I love that. That’s my art, and I get to do it all the time.”
As far as food art goes, Vancouver is a competitive place for artists like Melissa. Renowned as a foodie haven, the city’s restaurant ecosystem is vast and diverse, dishing up everything from West Coast seafood to fusion fare to authentic ethnic cuisines from all corners of the world. Standing out requires more than creativity. When there’s good food on every corner, it’s the experience that counts.
The experience is what makes weddings Melissa’s favourite type of event to cater. Expectations for these events are high, as is the level of artistry required. Each and every item presented at a wedding has to be immaculate and align with the vision that the couple has for their special day. As both a coveted centrepiece and a ceremonial item, wedding cakes must be exquisite to look at and delicious to devour (or smear across the groom’s face).
On these occasions, Melissa takes her time. She relishes the fun of sorting out every detail. From the taste and texture to the aroma and the visual presentation, nothing is overlooked. Doing her best is a point of pride, but also a commitment because, says Melissa, “I’m making something that will be a big deal on someone’s most important day.”
Working with Emelle’s to help create memorable experiences has been a real joy for Melissa, and seeing her hard work pay off is always a special moment. “When you see a set-up of platters on the table covered with your own little art pieces, that’s pretty cool.”
Featuring: Megan and Elliot Laskin
Growing up, the motto in Megan Laskin’s household was “work hard, play hard, no regrets.” Her father, a decidedly celebratory spirit, impressed upon Megan that life was not a dress rehearsal but a one-shot deal. It was to be lived, and lived fully.
Though her father passed young, he inspired a belief that the good times should be shared with friends and family, and that special moments in life should never pass without a party.
Megan and her husband Elliot have whole-heartedly embraced her father’s philosophy. From birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs to reunions with friends and major life milestones, no worthy occasion goes uncelebrated. Parties are a family affair, drawing together parents, children, extended family and friends. Among the familiar faces often present are those of the Emelle’s Catering staff, who’ve been with the Laskins since the beginning.
“My mother discovered Emelle’s early on for a birthday party she was holding,” tells Megan. “That led to them catering our wedding, then my brother’s wedding, then my sister’s wedding. They’ve done brunches for our best friend’s son’s bar mitzvah, and a Friday night Shabbat dinner for our niece’s commitment ceremony.”
To date, in addition to smaller functions, the Laskins have teamed up with Emelle’s on over 10 major family parties.
“Three generations. Ten parties. Twenty years. That’s lots of history.”
“Three generations. Ten parties. Twenty years. That’s lots of history,” says Elliot, who has always been particularly impressed by Emelle’s ability to organize and manage a space. “They’re great at seeing the big picture,” he says. “At the parties we’ve done, they coordinate with décor people and suppliers. That can be stressful, but they manage everybody’s expectations. They know we like things to go off without a hitch and they keep everyone happy.”
Sometimes, keeping everyone happy requires coming up with creative solutions on a moment’s notice. One stand-out moment was at the Laskin’s Bollywood party celebrating Megan’s 40th birthday, an elaborate backyard affair for 150 people. “We had this massive 15,000-square-foot tent outside,” says Elliot. “It looked amazing, but the floor was plastic and a day before the event we realized it just didn’t feel good. It almost ruined the atmosphere. Emelle’s understood, and they arranged to have carpet brought in. Afterward, guests couldn’t tell if they were inside the party tents in our backyard or in our home!”
They worked through the night. With just two hours to go, the tent was transformed into the perfect blend of Bollywood flair and Vancouver glamping. As guests arrived, they were treated to a wide assortment of authentic Indian cuisine and encouraged to eat, drink, and dance the night away. “The atmosphere was amazing. The food was incredible. The whole night, the music, the ambience, it was just fun,” says Megan. Even the police officers, who dropped by at eleven, one and three, couldn’t help but wander around and snag a nibble.
For Megan and Elliot, the fun of working with Emelle’s is the collaboration. Borne from decades of shared personal and family milestones, a mutual respect and deep sense of kinship has grown between the Laskin family and Emelle’s. “They listen to our ideas, come up with their own, and together we always land on something amazing,” says Megan. Above all, Emelle’s ensures that whatever is important to the Laskins, their guests, and to the theme of the occasion, shines through.
If the theme demands a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, Emelle’s will grab some on the way over. If a Kosher meal is required, that’s what Emelle’s will prepare. “They really respect whatever your culture is, and they’ll make the food to match that,” says Megan. “If we’re doing something fun and casual, they’re open to that. If we need something fancy and high-end, they can do that too,” she says. “That’s how Vancouver is. We have really fancy, high-end venues but we also have nature and plenty of casual, outdoor activities.”
As Megan and Elliot look forward to their forthcoming 20th wedding anniversary, one thing is certain: They will work hard, play hard and have no regrets with Emelle’s by their side.
Mary Lee Newnham | CEO & Executive Chef, Emelle’s Catering
Nicole Burke | Director of Catering Sales, Emelle’s Catering
When the original owner of what is now Emelle’s Westside Kitchen told expert chef Mary Lee Newnham that he was planning to move to Brazil, Newnham and her husband Michael decided to buy the business.
They took over on a Saturday in May 1999. Instead of shutting down for a complete renovation, they did what Newnham describes as a “lipstick job”—they freshened the space and put out a new sign.
Then, with just a few staff and a lot of heart, they opened the café for business on Monday.
Their West 7th Vancouver location was surrounded by post-production and light industrial businesses at the time, and Emelle’s already had a strong Monday to Friday breakfast and lunch following. To the regulars it appeared to be business as usual. The café had the same ‘50s diner feel, the same green walls and corrugated aluminum siding. But behind the scenes, it was a new operation. At first, Newnham and her team focused on the foundation, which she describes as “inviting guests in, cooking what they like to eat, taking special orders, and having guests leave happy—hopefully better than when they came in.”
Then one day, a regular who worked for Raven Song Community Health Centre asked if Emelle’s could prepare coffee and muffins for an upcoming meeting. Newnham happily obliged. That first off-site delivery became a recurring catering gig, and Newnham recognized the potential to expand. There was just one problem. Newnham had the catering know-how, but she was stuck in the kitchen. What she needed was a front person who could get out into the community and build the catering side of the business.
In 2001, nearly two years to the day since they assumed ownership, Newnham and her husband sat down with Nicole Burke, a 24-year-old with a commanding presence. The three had an instant connection, but Burke declined Newnham’s initial job offer. “I wasn’t taking no for an answer,” says Newnham. “Neither was Michael. He said, ‘Hire her! Hire her! Buy her if you have to!’ So, we did, and we kept her.”
With the staff now numbering a solid seven, Burke was given one cooler, one van, and one caterer, and tasked with finding just one catering job per week. It didn’t take her long to realize that the key was finding repeat clients. Donning her power suit, Burke went down to Science World (“guns-a-blazing” as she recalls) and asked to be put on their preferred list.
“I said, you don’t know us, but we’re just up the street,” recounts Burke. “We can get here even if the world is coming to an end.” Not long after, they were on the list.
Burke continued pounding the pavement, taking samples to venues, showing off what Emelle’s could do and forging new relationships. At the core of these relationships were a set of values that Newnham learned long ago and had infused into her business—sharing, caring, hard work, and service to others. “When I was growing up, we always welcomed friends and family into our house,” she explains. “It wasn’t unusual to have 30 people in the house for dinner.” By extension, every Emelle’s client was welcomed into the house too.
Attracting clients in a competitive city like Vancouver wasn’t easy, but for Newnham and Burke the secret to doing good business has always hinged less on embracing the latest trends and more on supporting and respecting the community. “Our clients are diverse, as is our team,” says Burke. “We’re just as happy serving meatballs as we are serving filet mignon. So, whether it’s a guest having a cookie in the café or it’s an elaborately catered dinner party, those guests get treated exactly the same, no matter their station.”
Emelle’s has grown up a lot in the last 20 years, from those early days of trying to find one event a week. A team of seven is now more than 50, producing thousands of meals per week delivered to corporate offices and wowing guests at full-service events. Some 18 years later, they are still on the coveted preferred list at Science World and share that same preferred or exclusive partnership with seven other of the largest event venues in the city. While orders for one guest at a time are still very much a part of the daily repertoire, it’s now not unusual for them to serve over 3,000 people in one sitting. They catered at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, turning a parking lot into a dining room and serving dignitaries from around the world as Canada won the hockey gold and the city roared around them. Despite the change in landscape, hospitality is still at the heart of their business and always front of mind. After all, “Banquet chicken is banquet chicken,” says Burke, “but how you feel about that chicken, and who served it to you, is what makes us different.”
Featuring: Louise Schwarz | Co-owner, Recycling Alternative
On collection day, blue recycling bins line back alleys across Vancouver. In grocery stores and coffee shops, the triangular recycling symbol marks bottles, cans, bags, cups and all manner of disposable items. Thirty years ago, this wasn’t the case. “There was practically no recycling in Vancouver at the time,” says Louise Schwarz, co-founder of Recycling Alternative. “Citizens weren’t aware of what to recycle, how to recycle, even of the need to recycle.” It’s hard to imagine, today.
Back then, when Schwarz launched her recycling company, the very notion of recycling was considered a fringe idea. To her, it was imperative. “Years ago, I had an epiphany,” says Schwarz.
“When we talk about trash, we always say we’re going to ‘throw it away.’ But where is away? There is no away.”
Schwarz and her business partner decided to go after the big fish, the commercial businesses (offices, restaurants, shopping malls, property management companies, and so forth) that produce high volumes of waste. Theirs was one of the first companies to offer collection and waste reduction services in Vancouver and today it remains one of the last locally owned recycling companies in the city.
One early adopter of their services was fellow locally owned company Emelle’s Catering, which Schwarz and her colleagues frequented at lunch and snack time. Through a series of personal and professional connections, Schwarz was introduced to Emelle’s owner Mary Lee Newnham, who, as luck would have it, was right out there on the fringes as well.
“Mary Lee and her team were very aware of wanting to do the right thing in terms of their own production and waste,” recalls Schwarz. Recycling Alternative began working with Emelle’s, helping them to establish a robust green program that included recycling, composting and waste reduction in the Emelle’s kitchen as well as consultations on how Emelle’s could reduce waste when performing on-site catering.
The two companies crossed paths out in the community as well when, nearly two decades ago, they were both brought in to work Bard on the Beach—Emelle’s working the front end, providing delicious food, and Recycling Alternative working the back end, performing all of the recycling, waste diversion (to compost), and disposal education. Their mutual commitment to recycling presented a unique opportunity for some environmentally minded collaboration, so together Recycling Alternative and Emelle’s engaged in what Schwarz calls “trash busting.”
Over the course of several Bard seasons, the companies worked very closely in an effort to reduce waste at the festival. “How you manage your supply chain is very important. Our aim was to divert waste and make sure it didn’t have to go to a landfill,” Schwarz explains. From condiments to cutlery, no detail was overlooked. They assessed the food that Emelle’s would be serving, determined the packaging needs, and then sourced compostable options. Through this partnership, they divert about 70-75% of waste (that’s roughly 20,500 pounds of material) out of the landfill every season at Bard.
“Our signature event, Bard’s Bard-B-Q and fireworks is 95% completely compostable. From the food to the plates and even the cutlery! It has dramatically reduced our reliance on using the landfill,” says Ava Forsyth, Director of Operations at Bard on the Beach.
Vancouver’s environmental consciousness has certainly grown up over the years. In 2011 the city launched an urban sustainability initiative titled the Greenest City Action Plan with an aim of becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. While this is a welcome push in the right direction, “trash busting” is still a voluntary act, meaning the green revolution still needs leaders.
After nearly 20 years of partnership with Emelle’s both in and out of the kitchen, Schwarz has every confidence in their leadership.
Few restaurants or caterers have a green program as comprehensive, and their recycling acumen is top notch.
“When I’m at an event and I see they’re catering it, I know that behind the scenes they are really looking at their waste impact,” she says. “Working with a caterer like Emelle’s that’s committed not only to the amazing food they’re providing but also to reducing the footprint of that has been a great match for us and what we do.”
Featuring: Lauren Albrice | Landscape Artist and Preschool Teacher
On the day of her swearing-in ceremony, Lauren Albrice was excited. She’d been in Canada for 18 years and was finally becoming a citizen. It hadn’t been an easy road. She and her husband had recently separated, and for three months, she’d been juggling her work, her citizenship application, and the care of her teenage son, Justin, who was attending the swearing-in along with one of Albrice’s colleagues from work. At least, that’s who she thought would be attending.
When Albrice arrived at the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Office on Expo Boulevard to take the Oath of Citizenship, the entire team from Emelle’s Catering was there to cheer for her. They had asked for the details in secret and arranged the day off for as many staff as could be spared. “They had everything Canadian you could think of,” recalls Albrice.
“Flags and bags and gifts. I had the biggest entourage. It was a very important day for me, and I’ll never forget that. They surprised me a lot over the years.”
Years earlier, the first surprise was being hired. Back in 1999 when she enquired about openings, Mary Lee Newnham had informed her that they had none. But that was over the phone, and Albrice was savvy enough to ask to drop off her resume in person. Tagging along with her that Saturday was Justin, then just 3, who Newnham immediately warmed to.
“Can you bake?” Newnham asked.
“From a box,” was the honest reply.
“That’s good enough. When can you start?”
The next morning, Albrice was in the Emelle’s kitchen. “It was early days,” says Albrice. “Sometimes there were just three of us there. Mary Lee taught me everything.” To be taken in so warmly was a gift to the young mother, who didn’t have any family in Canada. Albrice looked up to Newnham and was inspired by her unbelievable work ethic. “She just takes on big things and does them,” says Albrice.
One particularly miraculous feat occurred when Albrice was working an 80-person False Creek boat cruise for Molson. As she and her colleague were loading their food cart onto the boat, catastrophe struck. The cart tipped, and all of the food disappeared into the water. Passengers on a nearby booze cruise laughed as Albrice cried and cursed. She called Newnham to relay what had happened. “Mary Lee was so calm,” says Albrice. “She told me to send my colleague back to the shop and continue setting up.” Albrice did as instructed, and not long after, her colleague returned with a new supply of food. “I had to do some cooking on the boat anyway,” says Albrice, “and we managed to pull it off. No one ever knew that it happened.”
Albrice credits that incident for the mindset she’s developed over the years: “Now I’m always thinking a few steps ahead of everything!” She also credits Emelle’s for helping nudge her back into painting, a passion she’d never pursued. “I went to art school in South Africa. I’d always loved the feel of painting, but I just wasn’t very good at it,” she says. Then one day, Michael Bosnell of Emelle’s saw some of her work and disagreed. “In 2007, he gave me an easel and a canvas as a gift for Christmas. I looked out of my window, began painting the mountains, and that was it. I just painted and painted.”
Today, Albrice is a landscape artist. She runs painting workshops for the Coquitlam School District and teaches preschool in the afternoons. “Leaving Emelle’s was very difficult for me. I kind of feel I grew up there. I needed to do it in order to move on, but leaving the people was hard. They’re still in my life though,” says Albrice, “just not every day.”
That’s the thing about family. They’re always with you.
Featuring: Laura Takasaki | Event Planner, Imagine That Events
When a new inaugural flight takes off from the Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the departure gate is transformed into a celebratory preview of the destination. Hawaii, for example, might feature palm trees, leis, mocktails and a smattering of Hawaiian cuisine. And on major Canadian and international holidays the airport is dressed for the occasion—snowflakes and Christmas trees at year’s end, red lanterns, gold door couplets and paper cuttings on Lunar New Year. These small touches that extend a joyous welcome or a fond farewell to those passing through the gates are usually courtesy of long-time Emelle’s partner, Imagine That Events.
Imagine That has been working with YVR for many years and organizes the airport’s annual YVR Summer Party in Flight Path Park. The community event features big stage performances, crafts, food trucks and plenty of displays about the goings on at YVR. But Imagine That and YVR didn’t always work together on such a grand scale. In fact, it was a chance introduction by Emelle’s that opened the door to their collaboration.
“About 15 years ago we were working a small event and while we were setting up, we were introduced to the venue’s preferred caterer, Emelle’s Catering,” recounts Event Planner Laura Takasaki. “We began working with Emelle’s mainly at venues where they’re a preferred partner, like the UBC Boathouse and the Vancouver Rowing Club.” A rapport began to develop between the two companies, and one day, Emelle’s Director of Catering Sales, Nicole Burke, asked Takasaki for help.
The request? Emelle’s was doing a small event at YVR. The event needed to impress, and they needed someone to manage the décor.
“It was a small job, worth about five hundred dollars,” says Takasaki, but she was keen to help Emelle’s accomplish the task. “At the time we just wanted the experience and welcomed the opportunity to get in there [and impress YVR].” Takasaki and her colleagues trekked out to YVR, lugging bags of décor items through security, and got to work. Then, something amazing happened.
That small five-hundred-dollar job led to hundreds of thousands of dollars of work with YVR on décor, welcome parties, inaugural flight ceremonies, holiday events and more.
“Nicole knew where that $500 job would go all along,” says Takasaki with a smile. “It shows the humility of Emelle’s, just inviting us into a great opportunity. Friendly. Outgoing. Humble. They’re definitely a Vancouver caterer!”
Working at YVR isn’t just a lucrative partnership for Imagine That. As a major port of entry, YVR introduces international travellers to Vancouver, to British Columbia, and to Canada, often for the first time. The airport’s B.C.-themed interior, complete with indoor creeks and waterfalls, is a showcase of West Coast and Canadian pride. It houses the largest collection of Northwest Coast Native art in the world and architectural features like The Great Wave Wall—a glass representation of the ocean and a clever parallel to Vancouver’s nickname “the city of glass.”
Making a good first (or last) impression on travellers is, therefore, tremendously important, as is upholding the airport’s reputation. For 10 years running, the Skytrax World Airport Awards have named YVR the best airport in North America. YVR has also routinely ranked among Skytrax’ top 10 airports in the world. These prestigious accolades set the bar high for airport events and exhibits, but Takasaki and her team are up for the challenge. With help from Emelle’s, they ensure that Vancouver always puts its best foot forward.