Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar owners selling to Dustin Valette

Dustin Valette, executive chef of Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen for the past six years, revealed Tuesday that he has made an offer to buy Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, owned by Jeff and Susan Mall.

The deal is reportedly in escrow, with Valette scheduled to take over ownership of the building and the business on Jan. 1, 2015.

“We want to pay homage to the restaurant that Zin is, but also give it a little pop,” Valette said. “We want to expand the kitchen and the bar, and we are buying a liquor license so we’ll have a full bar.”

It’s been no secret around the town of Healdsburg that Valette has been looking around for a restaurant space to call his own.

“It is with heavy hearts and great sadness that after 15 years we say goodbye,” said the message on Jeff Mall’s Facebook page. “Due to circumstances beyond our control, Zin is permanently closing its doors on December 30, 2014.”

The Malls, who founded the farm-to-table restaurant and wine bar 15 years ago, said they were forced to sell the restaurant after unsuccessfully trying to buy out their partner, Scott Silva, since March.

“We couldn’t come up with an agreement,” Mall said. “The 15-year run was very, very good. We’re going to take some time off and figure out what we want to do.”

After Thanksgiving, Mall plans to bring back old favorites at the restaurant, such as the Spaghetti and Meatballs. He’s also developing a piece of cooking equipment that has a patent and a Kickstarter campaign pending.

Valette has a front-of-the-house partner and a name for the restaurant, but was not ready to divulge either at press time. However, he said he expects to open the restaurant to the public in mid-February, with a menu of starters and entrées along with a chef’s tasting menu.

“I want good food, but you can come in with jeans and a shirt and have a great experience,” he said. “We’re not trying to be Cyrus.”

The new restaurant will be a return to his roots. The Geyserville native said his French grandfather used to produce breads at the space, formerly known as the Home Bakery.

“I’ve been cooking for 21 years,” said Valette, 34. He started his career at Catelli’s the Rex and Chateau Souverain in Geyserville, then moved on to Bouchon in Yountville and Aqua in San Francisco.

“This is the culmination of what I want,” he said. “I wanted to come back to Healdsburg and do some real food and showcase what Sonoma County has to offer.”

Diane Peterson

Features, The Press Democrat

I’m interested in the home kitchen, from sheet-pan suppers to the latest food trends. Food encompasses the world, its many cultures, languages and history. It is both essential and sensual. I also have my fingers on the pulse of classical music in Sonoma County, from student mariachi bands to jazz crossover and symphonic sounds. It’s all a rich gumbo, redolent of the many cultures that make up our country and the world.

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