Todd Talbot

Chef Colin Burslem from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport shares entertaining tips


In October, I hosted my annual fundraiser for Covenant House and for the second year in a row, the Fairmont Vancouver Airport and Chef Colin Burslem wowed guests with an over the top, impressive display of cheese and charcuterie. I decided to steal a few ideas from Colin and replicated it for some holiday gatherings. Below is a breakdown and look into a top chefs tips and tricks.

Chef Colin Burslem from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport shares entertaining tips

Here’s what Colin had to say…

It’s all about the planning…the key to having a stress free and fun evening with friends is all about the pre work. When I am getting ready for an event I will usually spend some time figuring out the details from where to purchase everything, table décor, theme, who is attending, and what am I trying to achieve out of this, formal or casual event.

Step one: Pour yourself a glass of red and sit down and write what type of food you want. I then narrow it down to what has appeal both in taste and visually. then it comes down to prep time, cook time, and service time. I always like to start with items that can be displayed and set so when people arrive they can start noshing immediately.

Chef Colin Burslem from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport shares entertaining tips

Presentation- How can I display something in a nontraditional way? Is it using a paint brush in balsamic reduction so my guests can have fun painting their bread, is it using an array of various glass jars to display dressings or pickles, is it finding leaves in your back yard that scream fall or can it be using an old jewelry box you have lying around to display macarons. I am a big believer in using what I have at my finger tips to create an engaging experience and showcase fun. Remember food is all about eating with the eyes first so think about heights, the dishes you are using, colors, spoons, knives etc.

Chef Colin Burslem from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport shares entertaining tips

Shopping- Me I love to plan my shopping days. The one factor I always keep in mind is how I can make this as seamless as possible. If you can find a place that you are able to forage as much as you can from one place then this is best. Here is a list of my favorite local Vancouver spots to frequent when hosting a party.

Cheese- Les Amis du Fromage | Benton Brothers Cheese

Charcuterie – Oyama Sausage Company | Bosa Foods(some of the best imported Italian prosciuttos/hams)

Olives/pickles/garnish- Granville Island Market has some really great small local producers doing nice stuff | Bosa Foods | Whole Foods | Meinhardt Fine Foods | Goumet Warehouse

Breads/Crackers – Plaisir Sucre(go early the bread sells quick) | Uprising Bread Bakery | Beyond Bread

Dessert- this is a special zone as I love a good pastry. Ganache Patisserie, Yaletown| Thomas Haas | Chez Christophe, Burnaby | Kitchening and Co, Langley | Patisserie Lebeau, Vancouver

The Neighborhoods – reach into the hood you live in….walk down Cambie, Hastings, Commercial, Main, 4th Ave, even in the burbs areas like Langley, White Rock, Coquitlam, Burnaby have some sweet little spots I frequent. Hastings Street in Burnaby is awesome.

Execution- again this is the toughest part do as much as you can ahead of time. If you can build all your plates of food ahead and have them ready this is best. My philosophy is to do as little as possible when my guests arrive and ensure that I can enjoy the party as well. If I have to do hot food, I have a timer set on my phone so I don’t forget about it. One of my fave hot items is a simple baked brie with wild flower honey and candied pecans so simple but amazing. I know it takes 10 minutes to get it all melty and gooey but trust me even a professional can forget and then you have a mess on your hands.

Chef Colin Burslem from the Fairmont Vancouver Airport shares entertaining tips

And if you really want reduce the work this holiday season, why not order a turkey dinner with all the fixings. Turkey to Go is an unconventional approach to the festive meal but means less time sweating over the stove and more time making memories. If this sounds right up your alley, The Fairmont Vancouver Airport has birds to order, all the fixings and dessert for 10 people! Get your order in before December 21st to ensure a totally stress free Christmas Day.


Most importantly is having fun. Always ensure that you are the one having fun. Take the time to enjoy your own creations, libations, and culinary treats. There is nothing worse than working the whole time for others and never enjoying what you have done. At the end of it all great food, good drinks, nice music, and a fun environment is just a platform to celebrate outstanding friendships.

Happy Entertaining.

Food photos by Erich Saide Photography