London couple seeks to continue Garden’s Gate legacy in Tehkummah

Kevin and Sheina Hemstreet and their two children, Osiris and Vincent, stand at the entrance to the Garden’s Gate Restaurant. The couple are excited to be taking on the challenge of building on the restaurant’s reputation for fine dining. photo by Michael Erskine

TEHKUMMAH – A great unease settled over Island fans of fine dining when the news broke that John and Rose Diebolt had decided to retire from the hospitality industry and that the extremely popular Garden’s Gate Restaurant had been sold, but those concerns are being blown away on the winds of a fresh start in a familiar direction.

Sheina and Kevin Hemstreet, formerly of London and now happily domiciled in Tehkummah, plan to launch a new Garden’s Gate era come (“hopefully”) mid-October, albeit without dining in for the time being. Together with their two sons, Osiris Martin (7) and Vincent Tyler (6), the couple has set about getting to know their new home—made somewhat more challenging by the advent of COVID-19.

“That’s H-E-M street,” chime the two younger family members in familiar cadence.

Ms. Hemstreet is no stranger to Manitoulin, having worked for a season at Red Lodge a decade ago. The Island captured her heart and spoke to her soul. “This is where I have wanted to be,” she said. Both she and her husband Kevin cite the rural lifestyle as a major draw in their decision to settle on Manitoulin and create a home for their family.

“We love nature and I have always loved it here,” said Ms. Hemstreet. “When the opportunity came up we decided it was the right move for us.”

Mr. Hemstreet is a red seal chef, not only a veteran in the kitchen but in the classroom as well, having taught culinary arts at London’s Fanshawe College. Ms. Hemstreet has also worked extensively in commercial kitchens and attended culinary school, but she is looking forward to a more outgoing role when Garden’s Gate reopens.

Currently, Ms. Hemstreet also owns her own business as a visual artist (acrylics) and provides services as an oracle, reading people’s cards, but she is an experienced doula, having participated in the births of more than 50 children. Her website is sheinahemstreet.com. She hopes to be able to reach out and make connections with the Island’s vibrant artistic community.

Rumours that the restaurant was going to become a standard fare, hot sandwich and fries-style venue could not be further from the truth, assures Mr. Hemstreet. “I like to mix it up, so our menu will not always be the same,” he said, adding that he has been heavily influenced by international cuisine and plans to offer a menu featuring different items, including innovative takes on different cuts of meat.

“Why should I offer you a grilled hamburger?” he asked. “You could cook that up yourself at home at a fraction of the price.” Instead, the couple is looking forward to taking diners on a culinary adventure with a destination that lies beyond the ordinary and humdrum. “But not so far out of the ordinary that it puts people off,” laughed Mr. Hemstreet. “I take something and turn it into something you wouldn’t expect.”

Mr. Hemstreet said that being a chef is “the only thing I have wanted to do all my life.”

One thing the couple is not interested in changing is the Garden’s Gate focus on utilizing local produce. “John and Rose have been wonderful,” said Ms. Hemstreet. “They have offered to help us any way they can.”

As for their new life on Manitoulin Island, both Hemstreets were adamant. “I have always wanted to live somewhere that people go to vacation,” said Ms. Hemstreet. “To be able to say, ‘that’s my home’.”

While starting a restaurant business while a pandemic is raging across the globe might seem daunting, the couple is unfazed. “I couldn’t think of a better place to be while all this is going on,” said Ms. Hemstreet. “We are very happy to be here.”