A Canadian Food Odyssey on Film
An interview with chef Jamie Kennedy on Michael Stadtlander
On Wednesday, March 23, farm-to-table chefs and restaurateurs Michael and Nobuyo Stadtländer will be at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for a screening of the new documentary The Singhampton Project, followed by a live conversation and Q&A session. While working in Switzerland in the late '70s, Michael (a native of Germany) became friends with Canadian chef Jamie Kennedy (visit his website right here). The pair came to Canada together as co-head chefs at a restaurant called Scaramouche, and Stadtländer emigrated here permanently in 1980.
To get ready for Wednesday's event (which will be an exceptional treat for fans of both food and film — don't miss it!), we reached out to Jamie Kennedy to get his thoughts on Michael and Nobuyo's work, Canadian film, and the kind of meal that goes best with a good farm-to-table documentary.
THE CANADIAN ENCYCLOPEDIA TELLS ME THAT MICHAEL STADTLANDER ROMANTICIZED CANADA AS A YOUNG MAN, WATCHING NFB AND CBC DOCS IN GERMANY. WHAT WAS IT LIKE WATCHING HIM ENCOUNTER THE CANADIAN REALITY AFTER LEARNING ABOUT IT THROUGH THE LENS OF FILM?
Toronto didn't impress him all that much, but once he got to the near north and experienced Canadian Shield country and the changing of the seasons, I believe it resonated with him on an extremely soulful and spiritual level.
DO YOU FEEL A CONNECTION TO THOSE VINTAGE CANADIAN DOCUMENTARIES AND THEIR FOCUS ON THE LANDSCAPES OF THIS COUNTRY? WHAT FILM MAKES YOU PROUD TO BE CANADIAN?
I love all those NFB docs. "The Last Spike," the William van Horne story, was big for me.
YOU AND MICHAEL (ALONG WITH HIS WIFE NOBUYO) ARE PIONEERS OF THE "FARM TO TABLE" MOVEMENT IN CANADA. WHY DO YOU THINK "CONNECTING CHEFS TO OUR LAND," AS MICHAEL HAS PUT IT, IS SO IMPORTANT?
Connecting chefs to the land around where they practise is exactly what it takes to evolve food culture (gastronomy) in this country.
IF YOU WERE GOING TO WATCH THE SINGHAMPTON PROJECT AT HOME, WHAT MEAL WOULD YOU MAKE TO ACCOMPANY THE VIEWING?
Let's say home is my farm and so in keeping with the spirit of Michael and Nobuyo's film, I would cook "in situ" for my guests. I would look around my farm and create a dish that somehow resonated with what I was seeing. On my farm I grow many kinds of vegetables and grapevines as well. Perhaps my dish would be "succotash of heirloom corn, squash and beans with sage and fava bean puree." A glass of my pinot noir from the 2014 vintage to accompany.
SPEAKING OF "FARM-TO-TABLE" PROJECTS: YOU'RE RUNNING A SUMMER DINING EXPERIENCE AT YOUR FARM IN PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY - WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT EXPERIENCE?
Beginning Saturday June 18th and continuing every Saturday through Labour Day this summer, I will host an on farm dining experience for my guests that will allow them to experience the landscape, meet local winemakers and food artisans and sit down to a delicious, taste of place dinner.
WHAT WAS THE GREATEST MEAL OR DISH YOU EVER ATE, AND WHAT MADE IT SO MEMORABLE?
I was 20. I was hitchhiking from Paris to Barcelona. I made it to a small town in the south of France just as a restaurant there was closing. The patron delayed closing his restaurant until I had dined. He placed a liter of local red wine and a baguette in front of me. Then a succession of three courses. Then coffee. The dinner was absolutely memorable, not only for the quality of the food but also for the quality of the service. It was hospitality at its best. A kind of holy grail that I still strive for today.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD ON FILM MOMENT?
It's got to be in the Japanese film Tampopo. There are several memorable vignettes but the one I love the best is where the protagonist comes upon a group of homeless men in the alley behind a fancy French restaurant in Tokyo. They are holding up the heels of several bottles of first growth Bordeaux and Burgundy and having a tasting. They compare and contrast at the highest level of knowledge and appreciation.