Afrim Pristine might have the shortest commute of anyone in Toronto’s food industry – the big cheese of his family business, he lives 100 metres from work. In fact, the Cheese Boutique gift shop is just underneath him.

“I like being close,” says Pristine, who is out of bed by 5:30 a.m. every working day. “I can go open the store, do a little bit of paperwork, come back, take a shower and have a coffee.”

“I’ve taken a fondue pot, a tagine – I’m a food geek and I like to have everything”

For better or worse, Pristine has the keys to a fully-stocked gourmet grocer at his disposal. “There have been many times where I’m entertaining and I don’t have something I need so I run over to Cheese Boutique for another bag of ice or a lime and I’m back in a minute.” He loves collecting cookware and accessories – much of his kitchen has been stocked by last-minute runs to the Cheese Boutique gift shop to pick up an item after hours. “I’ve taken a fondue pot, a tagine, a raclette machine… I’m just a food geek and I like to have everything.”

Since his cooking space is also an important spot for entertaining, Pristine is purposeful about keeping a tidy kitchen.

He recommends using an ice bucket to serve white or sparkling wine, so guests have easy access to it. His fiancée Courtney Bull also batch-prepares a few cocktails in glass jars with handwritten labels of ingredients. Naturally, he also has a meat and cheese board ready for guests to snack on while he puts the final touches on the evening’s meal.

Cooking while entertaining can be hectic, but he says: “I’ve had to train myself to do three things at once because of the store’s business. It’s my strength.”