About Us
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OUR STORY

Built in the 1880’s as the Eastport Congressional Church, Torch Lake Cafe has been a vibrant part of the Eastport community for nearly 135 years. Having grown up on the banks of Torch Lake, Leanna Collins was a short order cook and her mother, Betty, a bartender in the building in the 1970’s. When Collins and Jim Hettinger, relocated to Torch Lake from Key West, Florida, they imagined the building as she once knew it: a warm, inviting place to gather with friends and family.

 

The building was renovated in 2015, when the couple restored it, bringing back its unique craftsmanship with details like arched windows, restored original wood floors, its iconic bell tower and adding a spacious wraparound porch where guests can enjoy the fresh Michigan air.

 

Jim and Leanna are proud to offer a true community restaurant where locals and visitors can gather for fresh, seasonal cuisine, handcrafted cocktails and a vibrant music scene.

OUR CHEFS & STAFF

Catalin Munteanu

Executive Chef

 

It only takes a five-minute conversation with Chef Catalin Munteanu to be captivated by his deep love, passion, and appreciation for the culinary arts. Chef Catalin sums up his culinary philosophy in his mission “to be the liaison that connects and converts Mother Earth’s miracles into moments that impact lives, shift mentalities, and cultivate positive energy.” He sees this mission of taking the role as facilitator, the one that takes Mother Earth’s miracles to the most meaningful end, as a humble and refreshing experience. Chef Catalin truly believes in the transfer of energy from earth to chef to guest, and it is his responsibility to make sure this energy transfer is always positive and memorable.

 

Chef Catalin is a well-seasoned culinarian, with over 18 years of fine dining, luxury hotel, and upscale banquet experience. His philosophy, deep knowledge, and passion fuel a desire to make the newly renovated Torch Lake Cafe a premiere culinary. Dining in his restaurant is a time-traveling experience for guests, one where personal touches bring them back home and the unexpected mark them for life.

Dorin Constantin

General Manager

 

Dorin’s passion for hospitality began at a young age, growing up in beautiful Transylvania where his father, a musician, played in some of the most iconic restaurants in Romania. As a child, he dreamed of moving to the United States and, at 30, after traveling the world for eight years aboard luxury cruise lines, he did just that. His career with Renaissance Cruises and Celebrity cruises, allowed Dorin to experience all areas of the ships’ restaurants, carving a path from dishwasher to Restaurant Manager, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.

 

Before moving to Michigan, he lived in Sarasota, FL, working in various leadership roles for the Ritz Carlton and in Vail, Colorado where he had the pleasure to work with celebrity chefs Wolfgang Puck and the amazing Japanese Chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Taking care of guests wants and needs is his highest calling and mission.

 

Dorin is passionate about creating an unparalleled experience at Torch Lake Café, where guest  a place where guests can experience fresh, local foods prepared to the highest standards, handcrafted drinks for a unique and customized experience, exceeding expectations every time. He envisions a true community restaurant, where locals and touring visitors will feel both at home and inspired.

Dorin’s wife, Native Michigander, and two daughters inspire him to do his best every day. He is very excited for the opportunity to collaborate with a unique team of professionals at Torch Lake Café, and is very grateful to live in beautiful Northern Michigan.

Sharon Rodriguez

Chef de Cuisine

 

A Colorado native, Chef Sharon comes from a family with a long culinary history. Her love for food began at a very young age –  she began baking at the age of eight. At 16 years old, Sharon became a hostess at a local Italian restaurant, where she quickly became interested in learning about the culinary side of the restaurant business. It was when she was working her way up through positions in the industry and attending culinary school that she realized cooking was her life long passion. Sharon has experience in a multitude of culinary roles, including holding the position of Executive Chef at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Denver Tech Center to the Banquet Chef at InterContinental Hotel in New Orleans.

 

Sharon takes great pride in Torch Lake Café and is a strong believer in the power of positive thinking and balance in the workplace. Chef Sharon looks forward to bringing her own professional blend to the restaurants evolving menu.

Michelle Merrifield

Business Manager

 

Michelle returned home to her native Michigan in 2016 to join the Torch Lake Café team as the Business Manager. Michelle spent ten years in East Tennessee gaining experience in hospitality working at Blackberry Farm, a Relais & Chateaux property bordering the Great Smoky Mountains. She has an extensive background in both hospitality and business management and found that her position allowed her to combine her love for service with her love for numbers. Michelle is responsible for the day to day financial operations of the restaurant and handles the HR responsibilities while making sure things in the office run smoothly.

 

Michelle is passionate about her work and excited about what the future holds for Torch Lake Café. In her spare time, Michelle spends time making memories with her family and enjoying the outdoors from her home at the north end of Torch Lake.

Leanna Collins

Entertainment Director

 

Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Leanna’s love and talent for music became apparent in her early childhood piano lessons. From there, she went on to become a talented guitar and vocalist performing both as a soloist and in ensembles throughout her formidable career in music. Torch Lake and the Torch Lake Cafe play a large role in Leanna’s life; after moving into her family’s Torch Lake cabin at the age of 15, Leanna took a position cooking in what is now the Torch Lake Cafe kitchen, performing at beloved local musical venues like Molly Malone’s, where she once accompanied surprise visitor Rod Stewart.

 

Leanna lived and worked in Key West, Florida, for many years, and is overjoyed to be home in Torch Lake, creating dynamic music events and playing at the restaurant herself.

John Bokon

Bar Manager

 

Born in the Ann Arbor area, John has lived in Michigan his entire life and moved to Elk Rapids with his family in the late 90’s. His career in hospitality began with his first job working in the restaurant industry washing dishes at the age of 14, after which he spent 8 years learning the business from a variety of positions, including serving and catering for T.J. Charlie’s. His belief in fresh, local ingredients led him to a position at a commercial greenhouse, after which he returned to the restaurant business as a bartender at Siren Hall.

 

John has been a member of The Torch Lake Cafe team for the past three summers and is passionate about creating a guest-centric bar experience, innovating handcrafted cocktail menus, and selecting the best of of wine and Michigan beers.

OUR PARTNERS

As part of our commitment to using the highest-quality ingredients, we’re proud to partner with local Michigan farmers and artisans.

Bread & Pastries

Michigan Bread

26986 Trolley Industrial Dr

Taylor, MI 48180

 

Maple Syrup

Brownwood Acres

4819 US 31 N

Eastport, MI  49627

 

Currey Farms

5358 Barnard Rd

Charlevoix, MI  49720

 

Produce

King Orchards

4620 M-88

Central Lake, MI  49627

 

Providence Organic Farm

5691 N M-88

Central Lake, MI  49622

Meat, Fish & Dairy

De Vries Meats, Inc.

17685 80th Avenue

Coopersville, MI 49404

 

Fairway Packing Co

1313 Erskine St

Detroit, MI 48207

 

Guernsey Dairy

21300 Novi Rd

Northville, MI  48167

 

John Cross Fisheries

209 Belvedere Ave

Charlevoix, MI  49720

 

Otto’s Chicken

5622 Whitneyville Rd

Middleville, MI 49333