New York Family Discovers Vancouver’s Unique Cultural & Culinary Fusion

Emelle’s and The Fun Team Group join forces to create an elite outdoor dining experience at Vancouver’s iconic Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden.

Featuring: Sacha Chin | Event Manager, The Fun Team Group

On a warm summer day, 15 travellers from New York City enjoy a Tai Chi lesson in Vancouver’s Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. Built for the 1986 World Expo in a style reflective of the Ming Dynasty scholars’ gardens in Suzhou, the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden was the first authentic Chinese garden to be built outside of China. The New Yorkers have chosen it specifically as one of the highlight destinations to visit during their stay in Vancouver, where they’ve gathered to honour what has become an annual tradition—the sharing of a new international adventure with family and friends.

Event management company The Fun Team Group has planned a special day for them. A private guided tour preceded the Tai Chi lesson, and up next is an exquisite outdoor meal. In the heart of the garden, a table is elegantly set. Gold Chiavari chairs are drawn, ready for guests to be seated. The head of the travelling party is a couple who treat their friends and family to an all-expenses-paid trip each year. In an age of distractions and competing demands, it’s their way of ensuring that family time doesn’t become an afterthought and that memories are made and shared with loved ones. As a group, they’ve visited iconic landmarks all over the world and dined at some of the ritziest restaurants imaginable. Their expectations for Vancouver, known as a foodie’s city, are high.

To impress them, Fun Team founder Sacha Chin needs to present a meal worthy of the city’s top-end restaurants. She needs to present an experience, and she’s asked Emelle’s Catering to help her do it. On the day, Emelle’s CEO and Executive Chef Mary Lee Newnham is on site, presenting a menu of B.C.-inspired dishes that highlight the fusion of cuisines that Vancouver is known for and the fusion of cultures that the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden represents.

A menu of B.C.-inspired dishes highlighted the fusion of cuisines that Vancouver is known for and the fusion of cultures that the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden represents.

Newnham personally oversees the plating of each course, ensuring a thoughtful, beautiful presentation. In the catering world, it’s difficult to find service as amazing as the food, notes Chin, but Emelle’s excels in both. “Mary Lee really added the personal touch,” says Chin. “She was serving them on gold-trimmed plates! It was a special and unique experience for this group.”

It’s not the first time Emelle’s has come through for Chin. The first event she took on after launching her event management company in 2007 was the JDRF Vancouver’s Sun Life Walk to Cure Diabetes, a major fundraising event that drew thousands of participants. “We were in a pinch,” recounts Chin. “The regular volunteers—who were scheduled to cook hot dogs for 5,000 people!—bailed at the last minute.” She needed help, and Emelle’s immediately came to mind.

“Mary Lee and Michael brought their barbecues down to Stanley Park—on their day off—and cooked hot dogs for all of those people,” says Chin, her surprise and gratitude still evident. “And they’ve continued to do so ever since.” Over the years Chin and Emelle’s have worked together on a variety of events. From hot dogs in the park to private parties tailored for the elite, Chin says, “Emelle’s always rises to the occasion. They show up for me, anytime I ask.”

Special Event Testimonial

Our best experience with Emelle’s was just a couple years ago; we’d changed locations and we wanted to get existing clients into our new showroom, you know, to see the upgrades, to see our new equipment in the back and give them a tour of the new facility.

There’s a lot of intimidating stuff involved in doing something like that but definitely one of the easiest parts, one of the smoothest was working with Nicole. She came up with a plan, we were able to talk about options for food and drinks, she was able to work something out that was within our budget; we were able to have beer and wine because they can arrange a license and it really added a level of polish to the event that I don’t think we would have been able to achieve on our own.

People were asking me, “Who’s your caterer”. This is amazing, and there’s no better compliment than that. I think for Emelle’s folks were coming to my event and people wanted to use her for their events as well.

Emelle’s Customer

Bridal Shower Cake Testimonial

Last summer we were looking for a cake for my sister’s bridal shower and one of our concerns was that cakes typically look beautiful but they don’t necessarily taste as good.

I approached Nicole from Emelle’s Catering and she reassured me that they have an in house pastry chef that not only creates extremely creative cakes but also cakes that taste very delicious so when it came time to the day of the event first of all everyone was just wowed by the design of the cake. The colours were the theme of the event which was pink and black and it was a three tiered cake absolutely gorgeous and when it came time to people actually sitting down and eating the cake they were blown away by the taste of it all.

I would have absolutely no hesitation to recommend Nicole from Emelle’s Catering for all of your catering needs.

Emelle’s Customer

Emelle’s Catering Vancouver, BC

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with Nicole Burke of Emelle’s Catering. Emelle’s are an award winning catering company in Vancouver. Nicole is their director of pretty much everything. She’s a font of knowledge as you’re going to see, and today we’re going to talk about planning the food. How are you doing today Nicole?

Nicole: I’m excellent, Mark, how about yourself today?

Mark: I’m good. So, how does Emelle’s plan the food for a wedding or other events?

Nicole: Well, you’d think as a caterer it would all be about food, right? We try our best to start you off somewhere so we look at seasonality, we look at the type of event that you’re having, we also look at things that are locally sourced since that’s really important to people, and start you off with a bit of a package. Really most of it is about customization so how can we cater to you, that is in fact our tag line after all. The point really is, if what’s going to make your event special is incorporating those small nuances like grandma’s meatloaf into your wedding or if you’ve got a bigwig client that happens to be a celiac, it’s how we can put those items into the menu plan so that the guests know that’s made especially for them and that’s what’s key.

Mark: So customization is really available and does it add a lot to the costs, like how does that work?

Nicole: Well interesting that you ask because most hotels, restaurants they do have set menus and it does cost more to customize. That is where catering is awesome because we are only ordering food for the events that we have on that particular day so we’re able to buy specialty produce, add ingredients to things to your taste preference and we do that because we’re only making it for you, we don’t have hundreds of pounds of things sitting in our cooler waiting to be sold, it’s the other side, once we’ve sold it then we bring it.

Mark: Perfect. So, seasonality, what would be some examples of how that would change your menu?

Nicole: Well, think summertime. Right in Vancouver particularly, it’s all about berries and fresh produce that we can get from Granville Island, we’re not making too many strawberries in Vancouver in January so clearly that’s not going to be a locally sourced product in January and if we are buying it, importing it in that’s going to increase the costs, so in fact, in reality, strawberries can be double the price this time of year than they are in the summertime. So it’s important for us to include those things so that A. the freshness of the product is so much better when we don’t have to ship it and you’re going to actually benefit from buying in season because there’s more supply.

Mark: So are there any kind of limits then on the kind of foods that you guys can prepare?

Nicole: Absolutely not and that’s what’s fun! So, we have an international team of chef’s here that always like to do different things and that’s what the fun part for us, if someone comes to us with a real special recipe and we can go to the Chinese market and buy special spices to include it then the team gets to learn something new, we’re excited and engaged and when we’re able to deliver that smile to the client at the end, that’s really the reward.
Mark: So, if you want excellent food at your next wedding or your next wedding because you have multiples, or your next event, you might not plan ahead for that but at your next event, your corporate event, your big party, your small party, you do small stuff too, right?
Nicole: Oh yes, Valentines is coming, how about dinner for two? So absolutely, two people, two thousand people and everything in between, we’re happy to cater to everybody.

Mark: These are the guys to call, Emelle’s catering. Give Nicole a call 604-875-6551 or check out their website Thanks Nicole.

Nicole: You’re welcome Mark, have a great day.

What Costs Should You Plan for When Considering Catering an Event

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here with Nicole Burke from Emelle’s Catering in Vancouver. How’re you today Nicole?
Nicole: I’m fantastic, Mark, how about you today?
Mark: Good. So you’re in a busy restaurant and things are still hoping but we’re going to press on. We’re going to talk about the costs of planning an event and how much is that catering and how much of that is other things. So inform us.
Nicole: There you go. It definitely is all about other things and l think that’s probably the number one question we get when folks call in. I speak specifically today to weddings only because that seems to be where everybody’s on a budget more times than not and perhaps not realizing all the other associated costs. So let’s think about a restaurant or a hotel for example, in most cases you have existing infrastructure, you have a building that’s carpeted, that has heat, and gas and water but you also have tables and chairs and staff, a kitchen that exists and you simply walk in and everything miraculously happens for you. As an off premise caterer what actually makes it fun is we’re creating that infrastructure, so we’re going to your back yard, to an empty field, we’ve catered on tops of mountains and we’re bringing the tent, the floor, the water to actually make the building, then we’re bringing the ovens and the kitchen equipment in order to make a kitchen and the tables and the chairs and then we consider the food. So usually you’re talking about 60 or 70% of your overall budget in ‘the stuff’ and then the food is what happens secondary because we need to know what we can actually produce in that location before we’re able to even think about it.
Mark: Wow, so there’s a lot obviously to think about on the creative side of wedding venues. Is it still the same when you’re using a more traditional venue?
Nicole: Certainly the costs are less, absolutely; when you’re in a community centre or a place that does a lot of weddings, absolutely. You’re still looking though at plates and cutlery and glass wear; things that you might not consider as extra costs because when you’re in a restaurant they’re just there but we have to bring all of those things in, so it’s important for us to know even small things that you wouldn’t consider so, are you serving beer and wine or are you serving a specialty drink because we need to bring martini glasses for example. And how many staff we require is based on those logistics.
Mark: How far do you guys go out? Are you doing Whistler events, are you doing Chilliwack; what’s the region that you kind of cover? And how does that affect the charges?
Nicole: Absolutely, great question. So, we will for sure go to Whistler and go out as far as Hope. We’ve done both of those things. Staff, labour costs is more expensive because we need to allow for travel and your rental equipment delivered, delivery charges are more expensive more times than not but outside of that chicken, is chicken, is chicken regardless of where we serve it. It’s the getting us there that actually costs more. What we’ll find is more important in those sort of remote locations is actually having a kitchen that we can cook from, so whether we build it or whether there’s one that exists, it becomes more important because we can’t transport anything already prepared.
Mark: Right, awesome, so lots to think about and I guess you guys have check lists that you walk people through and show then exactly, o.k. well here’s how and I’m sure with your expertise with doing this so long you can say, well here’s some places where you can trim some of that and let’s get you into a realistic budget.
Nicole: Absolutely, so we work really hard with our venue partners knowing what they charge to rent their spaces, knowing what’s going to work well for the clients given the size of the group. We also make suggestions certainly to the menu, things that require less equipment so it makes it easier for them to trim their budget and I call it a fact finding mission, those are always the first meetings because when you are hit with all of this information particularly when you are planning a wedding and don’t necessarily plan events often, you can be really overwhelmed with all the details.
Mark: Right. So if you are planning an event these are the folks to call to cater your event. They make fantastic food, as a personal recommendation and thanks a lot Nicole.
Nicole: Fantastic. Thanks Mark. Have a perfect day.
Mark: You too, bye.

How to Pick a Caterer for your Event in Vancouver?

Mark: Hi, it’s Mark Bossert from Top Local Lead Generation. We’re here talking with Nicole Burke from award winning Emelle’s Catering in Vancouver. How’re you doing this afternoon Nicole?
Nicole: I’m fantastic Mark, how about you today?
Mark: I’m great, it’s a busy day, we’re doing lots of Hangouts and so we’re going to talk about catering in Vancouver. I guess you guys are heading into another busier season with Christmas coming up. So what are the does and don’ts when picking a caterer for your event?
Nicole: The two questions everybody asks the caterer are you going to show up and are you going to run out of food. And so when you’re hiring a caterer my first piece of advice always is to go and actually meet with them. Go to their shop, make sure that they’re a legitimate business, that they’ve got a health permit hanging on the wall, that they have a business license so at least you have a place to start, somewhere. Catering comes from all different facets so you can have people that work out of their basement, you can have aunt Jo who does it on occasion on a Saturday and particularly if you’re doing a big life celebration like a wedding or a company party it’s really, really important that you’re going with a reputable business first.
Mark: So, that brings up what type of events do you guys kind of specialize in your catering business in Vancouver?
Nicole: So we do everything from two people having a picnic on a beach which is fantastic for an engagement party or if you’re going out for a date. We do events for 2,500 people so we just did a barbecue for a corporate party and it was their staff picnic and yes, they had 2,500 staff and so and everything in between, particularly over the summer time its weddings which we do lots of in super high volume, and then anything that’s summer related downtown, so we have a partnership with Bard on the Beach, and do lots of corporate work there and then as we shift into this particular season we’re looking at mostly corporate work of Christmas parties, that kind of thing.
Mark: So, just to toss a little wild card in here, I know you guys were the caterers for something at the Olympics, when we had the winter Olympics in Vancouver as well. Isn’t that right?
Nicole: We were, we were working at Live at Live City so down at the Beatty Street site as well as David Lam Park and we looked after not only all the corporate pavilions down there but also the little cafeteria that serviced all the blue coat little volunteers and it was an awesome experience because in that capacity we did super high end VIP events for all the corporate tents that were there as well as for city officials but we also got to meet the everyday folks who came in for a sandwich when they worked a sixteen hour shift walking around the streets and we also looked after the vans as well so huge difference facets and gave us a lot of different opportunities to see lots of different things.
Mark: Cool, so are there specific venues in Vancouver where you’re the sort of the preferred service provider?
Nicole: Absolutely, those are partnerships I look for all the time, so we have been the exclusive caterer to the Vancouver Rowing Club in Stanley Park since 2007. We love it there. Certainly the best water view around. We also work the Telus World of Science which has also great opportunities for on the roof top deck for weddings, lots of different places for corporate parties as well. We work out of the UBC boat house, the Roundhouse Community Centre, we do work at the airport, so you name it, we’re there catering to it, for sure.
Mark: So, I guess it’s like you already talked about, you do all kinds of sizes and types of events basically?
Nicole: We do, right. So your average event these days is about a hundred and fifty people. If you’re looking at a corporate event, Christmas party, that kind of thing or a wedding for the most part, but day time office meeting could be four people, CEO’s sitting around having a muffin and we do that too, funny intimate little dinners are the most fun because you have an opportunity to engage with the folks that you’re working with and you can create better relationships that way, working forward.
Mark: Awesome, Nicole this has been great. Your service and your food is truly amazing, world class. I’ve experienced it many times and I’m proud to say I’m a customer of Emelle’s Catering and we do a lot of business with you guys. So, it’s awesome to have you on as a guest. Thank you so much. We’re talking with Nicole Burke about catering. You can reach them at Emelle’s or give her a call 604-875-6551. Thanks Nicole.
Nicole: Thanks Mark. Have a great day.
Mark: Bye

What is a cake cutting fee?

Cake cutting fees are often charged by caterers or reception venues to replace the lost revenue of dessert sales when cakes are brought in from another bakery.  A Corkage fee, for cakes!   Their cake cutting fees are charged to cover the costs of cutting the cake which takes skill and time, plating and serving the cake at a cost of around $1.50 to $2.00/slice.

While we would love to have you taste our signature in-house made desserts, if we are not the sweet fit, we will gladly cut your cake, free of charge. We welcome all contributions from family and friends helping to make your wedding special.

What do your service staff charges include?

How many times have you heard, “the service makes the meal?”  Ensuring a flawless event is our objective and our team of event professionals are what makes the difference between great and exceptional.

So what do we do?

Our professional, uniformed team will start by completely setting the room, which can include setting up the tables, chairs, place settings, name cards, party favours.  Once set-up is complete and guests arrive, we will create a flawless guest service experience as the event is in progress. Consider, coordinating with your MC or Planner to ensure we are on time, passing canapés & champagne, ensuring dad has a topped wine glass for toasts, that food service is replenished, cleared away and the room is tidy.  Or even simple things, like directions, calling a cab, loading up your car with left over liquor or making sure mom has found her purse at the end of the night.   Hospitality is our focus.  To complete the evening as you and your guests ride off, we will do the clean and pack up at the end of the event making sure that there are no damage deposits to pay.    Our mantra – leave the space cleaner than when you found it.

What kind of food do you serve?

We have a varied and ever changing menu as we are an off premise catering business. Unlike a hotel or restaurant, we customize everything!

Whatever your event, from weddings, corporate meetings, picnics, parties or any special event, we will make it unforgettable.  Tell us what you have in mind.  We want your input with your taste preferences, your cultural background or dietary needs.  If your grandma makes the best Cabbage Rolls in the world and that’s what you want, then we want the recipe to prepare it just the way grandma does.

If you would prefer our ideas, we can start by creating a menu that is both seasonally and locally inspired.  Our style is what we call ‘West Coast Fusion’ pulling menu ideas from a blend of Vancouver’s many cultures and by using local, seasonal ingredients. Wild BC sockeye salmon is certainly our most popular request. West Coast – always means great seafood!

Be it a breakfast, lunch, dinner or a sweet treat from our in house pastry department, our from scratch cooking, always tastes like love!

Emelle’s Westside Wheels…Taking our signature cuisine to the streets and beyond!

Located in the heart of downtown at the corner of Granville St. & Dunsmuir, our new bright red food truck is hard to miss! It’s only been a few short weeks since we introduced the new member of the Emelle’s family to Vancouver and it has been a blast so far.

What are we serving?
A selection of some of our favorite hot sandwiches, tacos & house made soups traditionally featured at our Westside Kitchen, including our classic breakfast sandwich now served on a fresh ciabatta bun, along with tender pulled pork with our signature bbq sauce and our new favourite lemongrass chicken with cucumber slaw. Gluten-free options are also available with our fish & vegetarian tacos made with corn tortillas and gluten-free bread options available upon request.
Why a food truck?
Besides the unavoidable food truck craze that has taken over not only Vancouver, but Canada and the States, the food truck opens up a whole new window of catering opportunities for Emelle’s.

Since the opening of Emelle’s in 1999, some of our favourite events to cater have been festivals. Festivals allow us the opportunity to get outside in the community, enjoy the arts and culture of Vancouver, meet a lot of new and interesting people and serve some great food! But the biggest challenge we’ve met with catering festivals was the amount of equipment that was needed to be brought in, set-up and torn down. Tents, generators, ovens, fridges, tables, bbq’s and more! Emelle’s would be the first on site to set-up and the last to load out. The long days made it difficult to do no more than one or two festivals a year. Enter our Westside Wheels: a mobile kitchen! Stocked with a grill, deep fryer, fridge and more! The set-up and take down is now a fraction of the time we used to spend, which allows us to participate in more festivals on multiple weekends throughout the year. Also, having a kitchen on wheels also allows us to easily bring in additional equipment to locations and venues that have limited kitchen facilities.

Want a food truck for you next event?
Look no further than Emelle’s Westside Wheels! Easily transportable, we can park our truck just about anywhere: outside your office, venue or house; in a field or park. And we can serve more than just sandwiches! If you want to serve guests poutine as a late night snack at your wedding, we can do it! If you want to serve tacos at your company picnic, we can do it! Crepes, waffles, pancakes, hot dogs, you name it! What sets Emelle’s Westside Wheels apart from all of the other food trucks in Vancouver, is that it’s owned and operated by a catering company. Just like any of our events, we can customize and create a menu that fits within the theme and budget of your event, cooked and served from the window of a food truck!
Where can you find Emelle’s Westside Wheels?
Regular location & hours
At the corner of Granville St. & Dunsmuir. In front of the Shoppers Drug Mart. Across from Holt Renfrew
Monday-Friday, 7:00AM – 2:00PM

Festivals & Events:
Vancouver International Busker Festival  (June 29-July 1)
At our regular location. 8:00AM-9:00PM
EPIC: Sustainable Living Festival  (July 6 & 7)
Van Dusen Botanical Garden, “Food Truck Alley” 10:00AM-9:00PM


Follow Emelle’s Westside Wheels Online:

Street Food App Vancouver
Eat St. Vancouver
Roaming Hunger

If you are interested in booking the Emelle’s Westside Wheels for an upcoming festival or event please contact
our sales office for more info. (604) 875-6551 or

See you on the streets!