As a woman in her mid-twenties, it’s hard to remember the last time I was invited to a superhero-themed party. I have a faint memory of a friend’s birthday party in elementary school, and have more vivid memories of my little brother and cousins regularly dressed up as their favourite alter-ego. When I was invited to the #HeroesVsVillains event at Cheese Boutique, by one of the event sponsors, Samuel Adams, the quirky idea sparked my interest right away — especially since it also involved 11 of Toronto’s hottest chefs serving up their signature dishes. Great food and grown men playing dress up? What’s not to love! I accepted the invite, unsure of what to expect.
On the night of the event I hopped into a cab and headed west onto the Kingsway. When I stepped out, I was greeted by a fiery lamb roast, The Green Hornet’s ‘Black Beauty’, cute little statues of mice dressed up, and an entranceway with hanging birds with bodies made from cheese wheels; it was equally odd and hilarious. Upon entering Cheese Boutique I found walls filled from floor-to-ceiling with the most amazing food products imaginable. There was every kind of olive oil, a million different types of salt, and even a cheese cave! I honestly thought I had died and gone to foodie heaven. I almost cried. As if that was thrilling enough, amongst all of it were 11 chefs serving up food while Stratus and Samuel Adams served wine and beer alongside it.
Needless to say, it was an incredible and very unique night. Most likely, the first of its kind ever to take place in Toronto. I decided to catch up wit the mastermind behind it all — Afrim Pristine, Co-Owner of Cheese Boutique — to find out more about how and why he created the #HeroesVsVillains event.
Chef John Horne of Canoe (above) Samuel Adams paired with Pinxto of Ribeye from Bar Isabel (below)
GC: #HeroesVsVillains was such a cool and unique event! How and why did you come up with the idea and theme?
AP: It’s a long story…the Batman cape I was wearing was given to me 28 years ago (when I was only 6 years old) from my parents. It is one of my most prized possessions. I love it — it reminds me of my childhood, it reminds me of my parents and of a great childhood — and it puts a smile on my face! The cape is so simple and juvenile, and I’ve been a big Batman supporter my whole life. It’s a passion of mine.
Im in a very fortunate position in my career (thanks to my family!) to take a childhood passion, get 11 of my very good friends (who happen to be some of the best chefs in the city) to come on board and share that passion, and put on an event like #HeroesVsVillains. I wanted to have fun with it, and have the theme all over the shop. The minute guests got out of their cars I wanted them to have something to remember — like The Green Hornet car and the lamb roast — as silly as it is, it’s very important to me. We all work a lot and we all stress a lot, but we all have that thing we can turn to and forget about the hard things in life.
I wanted to share my passion and combine it with great food, great service, and Cheese Boutique; I wanted to bring all of those things together and have a great night! it was years in the making, as I’ve been wanting to do it for the past few years — every aspect of the night went through my head a thousand times over throughout the last year. It was better than I expected and better than I could have I ever imagined. Thanks to my staff for their help and a crazy juvenile idea. The chefs were amazing and supportive; every one of them embraced the role, and embraced the theme. This would have blown up in my face if it wasn’t the case; those guys made my dreams come true.
GC: Why did you select those particular chefs to take part?
AP: They’re all good friends of mine, and good clients of the shop. I first started with 7 chefs, and then I kept on adding until I got to 11! Everyone played a very important role. Everyone’s dish was important to the synergy of the whole meal. Everyone one did what they’re known for but with the superhero twist. We’re all a similar age group and have grown up in this industry together, and I’ve known them for a long time and knew these chefs would really would have fun with this. None of these guys need to do anything like this (for exposure) but they did, and they had fun with it. I think they also have faith and trust in me and the shop. I was thinking of them when I was selecting them.
Chef John Horne of Canoe (above) and Chef Geoffrey Hopgood of Hopgood’s Foodliner (below)
GC: What were your thoughts on each chef’s choice of alter-ego?
AP: I chose them! I first started with the chef, and then went to the hero or villain for the alter ego. It was based on their personality, how they look, and how they cook. Rob Gentile (of Buca)? He was Iron Man. Geoffrey Hopgood (of Hopgood’s Foodliner) is very low key and very smart — he has a high food IQ — and was a no-brainer as Magneto. Cory Vitello from The Harbord Room is the Joker – (he’s got a) big personality, big smile, (and is) always joking around. It’s so silly in hindsight but it just kind of worked. Craig Harding from Campagnolo wanted to be a villian because he was roasting the lamb, so he was The Green Goblin.
Chef Grant Van Gameren of Bar Isabel (above) and Tom Wade of Farmhouse Tavern (below)
GC: Did you have any favourite moments from the event?
AP: Just before the event started I did a Thank You and told everyone what it meant to me, and what it meant to my family, for all the chefs to come in. They are as crucial (to the event) as I was, and then I gave them all their custom #HeroesVsVillains aprons. Just the smiles on the faces of all the chefs — we were like kids dressing up on Halloween! it was awesome! That was my favourite part, and, of course, seeing customers walk away with a smile.
Dessert buffet by Nadege Nourian of Nadege Patisserie
GC: Why do you feel it’s important to curate experiences like the #HeroesVsVillains event for citizens of Toronto?
AP: I don’t think something like it has been done in the city before. Really, I wanted to have some fun! We just work so hard (and) I wanted to have some fun, and have us all let our guard down for a night. Some of our customers even dressed up which showed me that even the customers were really on board for the event. Cheese Boutique is about exploring and I wanted the customers to explore the food, the drinks, and the chefs. How often to get to meet the chef at a restaurant? And with their guard down? It was dinner done the Cheese Boutique way — with fun, enthusiasm, good food and good service!
Chef Victor Barry of Splendido (above) and Rob Gentile of Buca (below)
GC: Why do you think Batman is so awesome?
AP: I remember the Adam West Batman, that’s the Batman I grew up on . Ultimately it’s a cool story, and it’s kind of dark, especially the last series had some of the coolest stories ever. And his alter-ego — playboy and philanthropist, to have all the toys, and then all the training. He fights crime for nothing, he just fights to help the city he lives in — and it’s selfless! I love that he gives back and that with great power comes responsibility. He gives back to something he loves. To the city he loves. It’s so simple. I love Batman and Bruce Wayne equally. He’s just AWESOME!
Thanks for a great night, Afrim!