Cultivating talent: Michael Stadtländer’s new restaurant goes beyond eco-eats
If the farm turned fine-dining restaurant concept of Eigensinn Farm was a radical innovation, Michael Stadtländer’s new project will take the rural revolution one step further. A restaurant, bakery, film school and news network—that’s what the chef has in mind for Haisai, which is set to open in Singhampton (about eight kilometres from his famed eat-in farm) at the end of May. “We’ve been doing Eigensinn Farm for 16 years,” says the chef, “so it’s time for a little change.”
Like just about everything on Stadtländer’s menu, Haisai came about organically. The new restaurant will continue the chef’s tradition of farm-to-table fare; it’s all organic, local and seasonal. He will also offer Sunday dim sum, homemade ice cream cones and an in-house bakery. A slight departure from the intimate atmosphere at Eigensinn (which seats just 12), the new digs will hold 30, with space for 16 more on the patio.
“We’re creating a culture,” says Stadtländer, who decamped from downtown after years in high-end eateries soured him on Toronto’s restaurant industry. “I like to lead by example.” True to his word, the farmer-visionary will take on four new live-in chef apprentices for Haisai, bringing his total to 15. They, along with Stadtländer and his wife (whose Okinawan origins are the inspiration for the venture), will even be participating in a film project to preach the locavore gospel beyond Grey County. Two cameramen are living on-site to document the making of Haisai as a follow-up to the 2006 eco-food documentary The Island Project. Once running, the restaurant will act as a school for film students, who can assist in making newsreels about sustainable food culture. The spots will screen at the end of dinners at Haisai, then likely be posted on YouTube.
But the news isn’t all good. We can still expect to find local chefs gathering at Eigensinn for such annual events as the upcoming Maple Syrup and Wild Leek Festival (May 24); however, the soon-to-be-eclipsed farm will become a gardening school, and will open for dinner only a few times a month. Haisai will keep up the farm’s five-mile legacy, with local food on the menu and local materials all around (lumber from the forest has been used for furniture, and clay from the pond is in the pottery). For the final touches, Stadtländer is waiting for inspiration: “I want to build the place; I want to sit in it and feel it, and see what the place tells me to do.”
We think it’s safe to say that if he builds it, they will come.