Berlin Hidden Gems: 'The Singhampton Project' Is a Feast for the Eyes, Too

Courtesy of Berlin International Film Festival
'The Singhampton Project'

A German-Canadian celebrity chef grows his own food to feed hundreds of lucky guests in the Culinary Cinema doc.

Farm-to-table dining is popular among restaurant-goers these days, and Canadian celebrity chef Michael Stadtlander has taken back-to-the-land cuisine to a new frontier.

The Singhampton Project, director Jonathan Staav’s documentary that screens in Berlin’s Culinary Cinema sidebar, follows Stadtlander and a landscape artist creating seven gardens on his 100-acre farm north of Toronto in which they will grow, cook
and serve a seven-course tasting menu to hundreds of guests over 20 nights.

Much of the film sees Stadtlander kneeling in his garden rows, watering and weeding with the help of 17 apprentices, feeding livestock and even drawing and cooking down maple syrup from his forest.

Stadtlander, who emigrated from Lubeck, Germany to Canada in 1980, takes cuisine very, very seriously.

“Shooting with Stadtlander is
 a full-time job,” Staav says. “He’s gets so much done in the course of one day. You basically have to be there from sunup to sundown.”

Stadtlander and his collaborator, landscape artist Jean
Paul Ganem, are in a race to get
to their opening feast. But The Singhampton Project has no roller-coaster of emotions or dramatic reveals typical of TV restaurant-opening shows.

“He [Stadtlander] always pulls it off. There’s a lot of showmanship involved, and his patrons are always amazed,” Staav says.

In the film, Stadtlander, a third-generation farmer-chef after his mother and grandmother in Germany, finds water to irrigate his garden patches even though it hadn’t rained in months, and much of his artistry depends on what the soil tells him. His inventive creations become a metaphor for what anyone can attain if they open their mind — and their mouths.

“He’s just this connection to our past where the things he does aren’t that different from what our grandmothers did, when they emigrated here. They had a vegetable garden, and in the summer, that’s where produce came from,” Staav says.

Beautifully shot, The Singhampton Project could have audiences in Berlin eyeing a vegetable plot and some clucking chickens for themselves.

The bounty of Stadtlander’s art extends beyond his dinner in the woods. The film shows him making his own pottery dishes as well as chairs and tables fashioned from local wood.

Staav says he’s looking forward to his Berlin screening as something of a crowning achievement for the Canada-Germany co-production.

“I made this movie for Germans to see their prodigal child, this guy who crossed the ocean and became more Canadian than Canadians. If he had stayed in Germany, he would have never been able to do what he has. There’s not enough land to go around. Because he landed in Canada, he had the opportunity to live his dream.”