Afrim Pristine: A New Level Of Culinary Creation

Canada’s premier cheese expert and owner of Cheese Boutique, Afrim Pristine, shows off his craft by creating the Charcuterie Chalet.

For Food Network Canada TV personality, entrepreneur and one of the world’s youngest maîtres fromagers (cheese masters) Afrim Pristine, the ongoing success of his career begins with his family. Since 1970, their Cheese Boutique in Toronto has served the city for generations with luscious selections of cheese, meat, catered feasts, delicious desserts and fresh food, transforming something good into something incredible. Proudly Canadian, he credits the success of his family’s 53-year- old business to the family’s strong European roots.

“My mother was born and raised in Naples, Italy, and my father was born in Albania during the Second World War. He lived all over Europe, met my mother, and in 1968 they immigrated to the west end of Toronto,” says Pristine. “We never came from money, but food was a massive part of our lives. The business reflects who we are, and this is what we grew up eating. Nobody eats like the Europeans, right?”

Customers know they are in Cheese Boutique from the moment they walk in. They’ll spot spot prosciutto hanging from the ceiling, a selection of 500 cheeses, truffles prominently on display, caviar stored under lock and key and beautiful 40-day minimum dry-aged beef accompanied by amazing artisanal selections of bread.

Throughout his 30-year career, Pristine has tried close to approximately 2,500 cheeses, and on any given day his “favourite” cheese can change. Above all else, he continually strives to learn and hone his craft. While his business has 125 employees, he lives up to his reputation as a hands-on business owner, and continues to build boards and slice meat and cheese for his customers.

“I love what I do, and I love being creative,” says Pristine.

Most recently, Pristine’s lifelong passion for the art of cheesemaking has resulted in his newest creation, the Charcuterie Chalet. That’s right ― adapting the gingerbread- house concept, but with a savoury twist.

“There was a lot of trial and error with trying to execute the physicality and the chemistry of it, but I’m proud of it. We took it to the next level.”

Foodies and enthusiastic party hosts can now experience the ultimate culinary “wow” factor for the holiday season with a 3-D “gingerbread house” cheeseboard, with bricks made of aged Havarti, a roof made with vintage gouda and pepperoni, various crackers for doors and windows, cream cheese rings for bushes and the fluffiest cream-cheese holding it all together.

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“For this project, I worked with Castello Cheese Company. They approached me with this fun and exciting challenge to create something different for the holiday season. Believe me, there was a lot of trial and error with trying to execute the physicality and the chemistry of it, but I’m proud of it. We took it to the next level,” says Pristine.

It is fair to say that we humans also eat with our eyes. The moment something delicious comes into view a mouth- watering reaction is sparked ― and the next thing we know we’re looking for the nearest plate. With Pristine’s home- assembly charcuterie-chalet-building kit, the flavour, aesthetics and party feature are all-in-one. The kit will retail for $175 at Cheese Boutique in-store and online and include all materials and premium ingredients.

With his appealing origin story of hard work, passion and family, Pristine quickly became a well-known personality to Canadians after being invited to be a judge on Top Chef Canada and Chopped Canada. Once Food Network Canada became enthralled by Pristine’s charisma, creativity and experience, the network felt that he deserved to host a show of his own.

Pristine went on to host his own show and the first-ever docuseries on Food Network Canada, in 2021, titled Cheese: A Love Story, in which Pristine embarks on a global adventure to visit the best chefs and cheesemakers around the world to explore everything there is to know about cheese, from making it to ways of enjoying it.

Afrim Pristine, who has studied with some of the world’s greatest cheesemakers, including Luigi Guffanti, Stefano Sarti, Carl Schilt and Jean-Paul Morin, says that the true love he has for his work stems from the hands-on training he received from his father, Fatos, as does the pride he takes in his family-owned Cheese Boutique.

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Marc Castaldo

Marc Castaldo