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A GRAND Star: Dorothy Zehnder of Frankenmuth, Michigan

She started working before World War II, when the restaurant was still called Fischer’s, and she was only 16.  Now in her 90s, Dorothy Zehnder continues her daily work in the kitchen of the world-famous Bavarian Inn Restaurant in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

FRANKENMUTHRestaurant co-founder Dorothy is still very active in the business, spending many hours in the kitchen, throughout the week. Dorothy is the matriarch of all things Bavarian Inn — Restaurant, Lodge, Shops, Online merchandising and specialty foods.

Anyone who has traveled to Frankenmuth Michigan is well aware of the Zehnder name. Dorothy and her husband helped build the town through their large family-style restaurant. Today, they own multiple properties in Michigan’s Little Bavaria.

Furthermore, she has released two cookbooks to spread what she learned from her 60 plus years with Bavarian Inn to kitchens everywhere. Her first, was released in 2011 and serves as both a cookbook and autobiography, featuring a rich collection of stories and recipes. Her second cookbook was released three years later in 2014. Called From My Kitchen to Yours, this book features 195 hand-picked recipes from Dorothy and her family.frankenmuth

The Bavarian Inn Restaurant now has the fourth generation of its family involved in operations. In fact, they have made a business decision to be the largest restaurant user of Michigan agricultural products and they are successfully achieving this goal day in and day out. The Bavarian Inn has held its own, despite Michigan’s economic struggles. While the restaurant and travel industry continues to experience hardship, Bavarian Inn is bucking the trend and remaining profitable.  It is among the top 10 restaurants in the nation.  That’s a story itself!

FrankenmuthAs Dorothy is turning 95 this December, a friend, and admirer of Dorothy’s sums her up like this, “It seems that getting to that age isn’t a big deal anymore, but working at age 95 is!”

  • Dorothy works at the Bavarian Inn with her two children – Bill and Judy and four grandchildren: Amy, Katie, Martha and Michael.
  • On Mondays, she takes the day off and loves to bake at home – often with her family.
  • She lives on her own and drives.
  • She goes to the local gym with her family and works out.
  • She has published 2 large cookbooks in the last 5 years as well.

When and if I get to be 95, I want to be just like Dorothy!



Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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