Jennifer Piallat, the owner of Cole Valley bistro Zazie, is expanding her brunch-fueled empire with the purchase of Calistoga Kitchen (1107 Cedar Street, Calistoga), made along with partners Shaun McGrath, Jenna Hodges, and Kaitlin Jones (all formerly of neighboring Sam’s Social Club).
Piallat, who is celebrating Zazie’s 25th anniversary this year, has been splitting her time between San Francisco and Calistoga since buying a home there in 2008. She’s been waiting for the right opportunity to open a second restaurant — a patio, as at Zazie, was a must, and Calistoga Kitchen fits the bill. The trio of McGrath, Hodges, and Jones approached the more veteran Piallat to become a 25 percent partner in their purchase of the restaurant. While McGrath and Hodges handle the kitchen and Jones will manage drinks, Piallat will run everything from social media to HR and employee benefits.
For now, Calistoga Kitchen will operate as-is, with only a few tweaks to hours and menu. Piallat has praise for the restaurant’s status quo, and doesn’t want to close during the height of tourist season. Then, come January, Calistoga Kitchen will close for a weeklong remodel and adopt the new name Lovina. The changes include antique chairs, tables, and a portrait of new namesake Lovina Graves Cyrus that currently hangs in Piallat’s home. A historic area resident who lived on the property Piallat now owns, Cyrus survived the Donner Party when she was 12 years old, and her life of tough talking and grizzly shooting (at least according to lore) is commemorated at the local Sharpsteen Museum of Calistoga History.
Looking back on her experience in the restaurant industry, Piallat is quick to admit that “restaurants are hard places to work,” and credits her attention to employees as a major factor in Zazie’s enduring success. “That place has been such a proving ground of what you can do when you’re kind to people and treat them well.” Piallat, for example, pays full premiums for medical and dental care for all her workers, a policy she put in place well before Healthy San Francisco took effect. Zazie even managed to retain employees while switching to a tipless system in 2015, a notoriously difficult challenge.
Piallat will bring similar practices to the current Calistoga Kitchen staff, who will stay on. While that restaurant won’t go tipless — at least not anytime soon — she’ll start by moving to a tip-pooling system. Calistoga Kitchen will also add more (and more regular) hours. Stay tuned for updates, like the full new menu, which hopefully won’t be inspired by the Donner Party.
- Cole Valley Standby 'Zazie' Celebrates 25 Years [Hoodline]
- How San Francisco Is Pioneering the Tip-Free Model [ESF]
- Donner Party descendant reflects on horrors of long ago [Napa Valley Register]