As good as it gets
Michael Stadtlander is a vertible giant in his field. He is one of Canada's leading culinary icons, pioneering a return to authenticity at Eigensinn Farm.
Standing tall and living close to the land, Michael Stadtlander is a veritable giant in his field. As a chef, farmer, author, and multimedia artist, he is also one of Canada’s leading culinary icons, pioneering a return to authenticity at Eigensinn Farm, just outside of Collingwood, Ontario.
To share the cozy 12-seat dining room at Eigensinn is considered one of the country’s most esteemed epicurean experiences. A UK foodie biweekly, Restaurant magazine, ranked it among the top 10 culinary experiences in the world. It is a microcosm of sustainability and an enclave of epicurean appeal, just the way Stadtlander believes things should be.
At the peak of summer, Stadtlander and his wife Nobuyo find more than 90 percent of what is served, from greens to proteins, in Eigensinn’s farm and gardens. Raising his own pigs, sheep, ducks, chicken, lamb, and geese, Stadtlander was named the 2007 Organic Supporter Hero by the Canadian Organic Growers. Appreciative of the forum for speaking this accolade has brought him, he remains grounded.
“We do things a little different [at],” he says. “We cook a maximum of four days a week, and the rest is spent gardening and farming and working on special projects. This is the point. I do like cooking, but I like having time to do other things.”
The scope of those other things is impressive, ranging from hosting the Canadian Chefs’ Congress at Eigensinn in late September to helping his eldest son build a 30-seat restaurant from scratch in the neighbouring village of Singhampton. The new restaurant will be named Haisai, which translates as “sincere greeting.” On the day of our conversation, Stadtlander and son are headed into the forest to cut logs for the chairs.
Stadtlander has also self-published a book capturing the recipes and images from the Heaven on Earth Project that in 2005 transformed Eigensinn Farm into a moveable feast with multiple outdoor stations, each marked by a signature art installation and dish from a local chef. His goal: to bring people even closer to the source of their meals.
In 2006 he boarded the Liberator, a biodiesel- and solar-powered kitchen bus, and drove across the country together with family, culinary apprentices, and a camera crew to host seven dinners on four BC islands. He captured the adventure on film and made his debut as an independent filmmaker with The Islands Project in 2007.
As passionate about sustainability as he is about so many things, Stadtlander is now eagerly anticipating the arrival of 500 chefs in September. The workshops they will host at Eigensinn Farm go to the heart of his philosophy relating to source.
“Chefs are very well connected to their farmers and we are their link with the general public,” he explains. “We are not here just to push our creations. I think I am successful because I get people to walk on the land, see the trees, feel the wind, and taste the food. It’s as good as it gets.”