Afrim Pristine’s career as a cheesemonger has taken him to some pretty remarkable places — like on stage at a music festival with an audience of over 10,000 people.
“There I was,” he recalls, “introducing Weezer to the stage, my favourite band. And I’m walking off the stage and lead singer Rivers Cuomo grabs me by the arm and he says ‘What song do you want to hear first? You’re picking the song we’re leading our set with.’ I was awestruck.”
For Pristine, cheese is a humble ingredient with the power to elevate. It’s certainly done that for his career and now, with his first book For The Love of Cheese, he’s eager to show at-home chefs how to elevate their own cheese experience with a few simple tips and tricks. Covering everything from how to navigate pairings to tackling impressive (but not too daunting) recipes from some of Canada’s top chefs, Pristine acts as our relatable, engaging, and fun guide to a world that can be a bit intimidating. Well, not when you’ve got Afrim.
Who it’s by: Afrim Pristine, owner of the Cheese Boutique, a nearly 50-year-old Toronto cheese institution that has been operated by four generations of the Pristine family. Afrim is the world’s youngest maître fromager (that’s French for cheese genius) and a huge Weezer fan, as previously mentioned.
Who it’s for: Everyone. Do you like cheese? Are you interested in finding out how to work it into every meal from breakfast to late-night snacks? This book is for you.
“I wrote this book in a fun, approachable way,” says Pristine. “I want everyone in Canada from East coast to West to be able to find these ingredients.”
One of Pristine’s top priorities for the book was to write it in a way that demystifies cheese and removes the intimidation surrounding what he calls, a simple, humble, noble ingredient. “I’ve seen how cheese can be a little snobbish,” he explains, “And I don’t want that… I have a big, fancy cheese title and I’m one of 50 in the world with it and to be honest, I wanted to take that title and put it off to the side a little bit because I didn’t want to talk in a way where people don’t understand. Wine is grapes. Cheese is milk and salt. Why is it that we have to complicate those? I think there’s a way to talk about it where it’s comforting and it’s not over your head.”
Why you’ll love it: For the two-step, two-minute recipes that will impress your weekend dinner guests.The book’s ‘Low Risk, High Reward’ section features surprising combinations that are as tasty as they are sophisticated-seeming.
“I have one [recipe] called Cuckoo for Kaltbach,” says Pristine. “Kaltbach is one of my favourite cheeses, it’s an aged Gruyere that pairs perfectly with Riesling. That’s a recipe! Or a beautiful fruit biscotti which you can store-buy, Beemster, dark chocolate, and honeycomb. You put each each one of those elements together and it is the most awesome sweet/savory canape you’ll ever have. You don’t have to do a lot, but there’s a big reward at the end.”
The recipe about to be your new favourite: For so many people, food is a nostalgic, sentimental experience. Pristine is no different. “I don’t remember what I ate last night but I remember things from years and years ago that, when writing the recipes, inspired me,” he says, pointing to the book’s recipe for Gateau di Patate, an Italian potato cake.
“Growing up, this dish was my favourite that my mom would make me. It’s like a really Italian version of mashed potatoes — a cheesy, breadcrumbs-and-sausage mashed potatoes.” It’s comfort foods like this that are sure to become your new go-to dishes.
The surprise bonus skill you’ll pick up: Pristine’s book will get you thinking about simple, ingredients-focused cooking that extends beyond the realm of cheese. This highly readable cookbook will change the way you shop for food — for the better!
Where to find it: For The Love Of Cheese is on shelves and online now. Pick it up for $29.95.