Michael Stadtländer is perhaps the only Canadian chef who can also fairly claim the title of artist. Well, it’s a long title, really: chef-artist-activist-naturalist-farmer-delightful eccentric. Stadtländer is considered the godfather of local and sustainable cuisine. He’s a champion of precious Canadian farmland, most recently with his Foodstock event, an outdoor food festival that raised thousands of dollards toward the legal defence of Ontario farmland threatened by a mega quarry. Cooking since 1973, he gave up city life in 1993 to build the farm-to-fork restaurant of his dreams: Eigensinn Farm, in Singhampton, Ontario.
And now, in one of his trademark flights of fancy, he has joined creative forces with landscape artist Jean Paul Ganem to mount the Singhampton Project.
Ganem, who is based in France, will be working onsite as time allows, though he has works in progress in Brazil, Poland, France and other parts of Canada. He is well-known for his massive agricultural compositions—best appreciated from the air—and has executed large-scale installations of geometric crop planting on farmland, at airports and on the outside of urban buildings.
The Singhampton Project, presented by Earth Day Canada, will run from August 10 through August 26, and promises to be a magical experience, immersing the visitor in a fascinating and delicious fusion of art, farming, gardening, nature and dining.
Trails will lead diners between seven edible gardens and “dining rooms”, each with a compelling and beautiful theme and design. The landscape of Stadtländer’s Eigensinn Farm boasts forests, meadows and gently rolling hills, each feature providing the canvas for Ganem’s artful plantings and Stadtländer’s rare cuisine. Each garden will be equipped with a kitchen and unique seating arrangements, and at each stop, diners will enjoy a dish created to reflect the concept or essence of that particular garden’s ingredients. Truly, this is a taste of place; a wholly Canadian terroir.
The Baroque French Fish Plate
In the ground: beets, fennel, basil, Jerusalem artichokes and other vegetables.
The Teepee Field
In the ground: The three sisters, corn, beans and squash, planted in rows reaching out across the meadow from the base of a large teepee.
The Chef’s Garden
In the ground: This garden is Chef Stadtländer’s gift to Ganem. With a circle of trees already planted, Stadtländer will plant peppers, tomatoes, onions and garlic. These are the ingredients the Tunisian-born Ganem needs to cook a traditional Tunisian dish known as Makbouba.
In the ground: Circular crops of grains and grasses grown to feed Stadtländer’s sheep and cattle, critters that will end up on the menu, served in handmade pottery from local artisan Steve the Potter.
In the ground: A variety of heirloom vegetables.
The Salad Bar
In the ground: Ganem will cut the infinity symbol into the soil and plant a selection of tender lettuces and micro-greens, all surrounded by existing raspberry bushes.
The Maple Syrup Garden
In the ground: Nature planted sugar maples and Ganem will install a yet-to-be designed “fairy tale” of mirrors in the trees.
Call it gastronomic installation art or art garden, we don’t think it’s going too far to suggest the duo will garden an ephemeral, edible poem.
For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Singhampton Project website.
(inset image: Sweet trout lily leaves picked from the forest floor blanket raw trout from Chef Stadtländer's pond.)
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