Tiny Ontario restaurant makes world 10-best list

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Monday, March 11, 2002  Print Edition, Page A1

A backroad Ontario purveyor of suckling pig and home-grown squab has been ranked as one of the top 10 restaurants in the world.

Eigensinn Farm, the rustic eatery of famed chef Michael Stadtlander, earned ninth place on a list of the 50 best dining establishments on the planet, according to a guide to be released this week by the new British magazine Restaurant.

The nine-year-old Eigensinn, a revered, but ramshackle Victorian farmhouse two hours northwest of Toronto, seats no more than 16 people a night, serves six-course dinners seasoned with herbs grown in its own garden, and game and livestock raised on its own acreage.

"The reason we put it so high up is that for something so far out of the way to be mentioned so often, by so many people, we knew it must be something quite special," said Restaurant magazine editor Chris Maillard.

The London-based publication slotted Mr. Stadtlander's free-range venture in the company of culinary giants Ferran Adria's El Bulli in Barcelona, ranked No. 1, and the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Chelsea, which took second place.

Mr. Stadtlander, who is currently exploring the culinary culture of Japan with his Japanese-born wife, Nobuyo, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

But the chef's 18-year-old son, Christoph, an aspiring restaurateur himself, said his father would be pleased: "I think he would feel success at being No. 9 in the world; he would be proud."

Toronto restaurateur David Bowen, proprietor of Monsoon and Brasserie Aix, said, "For a Canadian, for a country with our small population, to get into a top 10 list for restaurants of the world is pretty incredible."

Restaurant magazine based its list on reports from a 100-member jury that included major newspaper food critics, chefs, restaurateurs and bon viveurs, Mr. Maillard said.

Mr. Stadtlander and his family of four moved to remote Singhampton, Ont., near Collingwood, after 15 years of crazy hours cooking in Toronto restaurants.

They named their farm Eigensinn, meaning "single-mindedness" or "obstinacy," and "Here," Mr. Stadtlander has said, "for the first time since I came to this country, I feel like I am at home. Mostly, I cook what I raise and what a few others raise."

Having grown up on a family farm in Germany, Mr. Stadtlander has said that he has in a sense returned to his roots, closing the gap between food on the plate and the farmers and fishermen who produce it. "You can trace the chicken you're served to the hen house over the road. Eigensinn makes great use of their own fresh ingredients."

The magazine editor also noted that the judges had been quite taken with Mr. Stadtlander's 1998 encounter with the law.

The top chef was arrested after two undercover police officers, posing as a married couple celebrating their wedding anniversary, bought wine at the farm. The Stadtlanders, who had believed they were providing the wine at cost (but inadvertently made $1.50 profit per bottle), were charged with selling wine without a licence. Police eventually dropped the charges.

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