Chef Jenny Drilon and owner Robert Kemper build community through great food and charitable giving.
“Artisan comfort cuisine”
is how Bentwood Tavern
describes its delectable menu, served at the only waterfront restaurant in New Buffalo, Michigan, tucked into the Marina Grand Resort. This spacious yet cozy-feeling restaurant is styled in what resort and restaurant owner Robert Kemper refers to as “Contemporary Scandinavian Marine.”
Inspired by a marina restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden—a location that has much in common with New Buffalo’s climate—Bentwood is nonetheless deeply committed to local food, artisans and the community. Its warm woodwork trim was created from Michigan hickory by a woodworker from Berrien Springs. The white walls and modern interior enhance the lightness of the waterfront view. The large portrait of a sailor was salvaged from a local antique shop.
Its open kitchen concept brings diners close to the creative energy of good preparation. But it’s not just the interior design and the furnishings that reflect local commitment. The menu highlights local foods, cheesemakers and wineries. And the restaurant extends the community feeling through its five give-back nights each year.
One night a month, January through May, the Bentwood Tavern gives 50% of its food and drink revenue to a local nonprofit organization. The organization publicizes the event to its constituents, who come to the Bentwood Tavern along with other supportive community members to have a great time with family or friends, enjoying Chef Jenny Drilon’s cuisine and Bentwood’s superb wine list. Thus far, Bentwood has donated $81,000 through this program to over 30 nonprofit organizations, some of them more than once.
Bentwood owners Robert and Collette Kemper started the give-back program in 2008 when they wished to help a local school raise money for a student trip to Washington, DC. The fundraiser was such a success that they decided to extend it to other community organizations supporting a variety of educational, environmental, health care, arts and social services outreach programs—from Fernwood Botanical Gardens
to the Michiana Humane Society
, with many others in between. Robert Kemper views “local” as including Indiana’s LaPorte County to the south, as well as areas north to St. Joe and east to Three Oaks. Organizations can apply to be considered for one of the five yearly donations through the Bentwood Tavern website.
One night a month, January through May, the Bentwood Tavern gives 50% of its food and drink revenue to a local nonprofit organization.
Chef Jenny Drilon
Chef Jenny Drilon is also a local treasure at Bentwood. A chef and restaurateur who got her start in Chicago, Drilon also owned several Michiana restaurants, including Jenny’s in Lakeside before moving to Maine. When she returned to the Michiana area around the time of Bentwood’s founding, she agreed to serve as a consultant for several months. Eight years later, she is still happily making great food at Bentwood. Part of what has kept her so involved and dedicated at Bentwood is the community-oriented entrepreneurship of its owners, as well as their commitment to great food and service. Her newest interest is creating vegetarian and gluten-free items that any diner would love. When she’s not creating in the kitchen, she loves to hook rugs with a group of like-minded friends.