Mother & Daughter Team
Azu was incorporated in November 2000 by Laurel Moore. She bought Bill Bakers bakery at the same time. Azu opened its doors in early 2001 and November 13, 2013, marked 13 years in Ojai.
Laurel was inspired by her many trips to Spain and Italy. Azu started small, the original idea was fresh baked bread, panini and gelato. Soon after opening for just breakfast and lunch, Laurel was asked repeatedly to be open for dinner. She converted some old baking space into the dining room.
Executive Chef and Owner Laurel Moore is the driving force behind Azu restaurant and a style of food critics have called lively, inventive, and comfortable all at once. A veteran of Hollywood, Chef Moore travelled the world as a still photographer, working on such films as Pretty in Pink and The Big Red One. Establishing Azu in 2001 Chef Moore undertook a singular vision, to take the best of what the world has to offer, and translate it through a locally sourced, regionally relevant palate.
Daughter of Laurel and General Manager, Elizabeth Haffner, joined Azu in 2006. Having worked as a costume designer for film in Los Angeles and abroad, Elizabeth journeyed to Ojai, CA to join her mother in creating a unique destination restaurant, on par with her adventurous tastes, and at home in the magical valley of Ojai. Elizabeth tirelessly executes her vision of quality and service on a daily basis, making Azu a true experience in simple elegance.
Chef de Cuisine Chef, Damien Halderman, joined the Azu team summer 2013. Chef Halderman was trained in California cuisine by Jacques Goulet at the Los Olivas Café. He works with local farmer’s and wine maker’s to offer seasonal California-Mediterranean inspired food. Chef Halderman has shaped Azu’s menu into something a little rustic, yet with the care given to fine dining.
Azu is serving Fine Dining with a side of Grass Roots Conservation.
Recycling, Up-cycling, Closed Loop Food Production, and Water Responsibility for the Ojai Valley.
Mindful of their customers, quality, and the beautiful natural surroundings which make the Ojai Valley so precious to us all, Azu has put in place several initiatives and cooperative programs in order to be a conscious and responsible member of the Ojai community.
It begins with Growing Their Own. Azu has expanded it’s practice of growing their own vegetables, herbs, and fruit, and supplementing with locally raised produce, and meat. they also cultivate the flowers and plants they use for their table and bar decor. Azu General Manager, Elizabeth Haffner says “Eliminating long distance transport of these items keeps money in the community and drastically shrinks our carbon footprint, as well as giving us access to the freshest ingredients.”
This is made possible, in part, by Azu’s in House Compost Program. Azu repurposes all of it’s plant based kitchen waste as well egg shells and fish scraps to make compost for their seasonal vegetable beds and fertilizer for their fruit trees, reclaiming not only energy and time but the water used to raise these foods. Azu Cultivation and Compost program director, Jeremy Haffner says “The water content of vegetable food waste represents 24% of total water used to irrigate crops world wide. In a thirsty state, it just makes sense to maximize how much we get out of our water.” Azu has also installed water filtration systems to be able to clean and reuse their dish washing water for multiple cycles, saving thousands of gallons a year. “We’ve also just partnered with Local Honey producers Blue Ridge Honey to keep hives on The Etchart Ranch organic orchard, which is very exciting.” says Haffner.
To further mitigate any food waste, Azu has initiated a trade program to reclaim customer meal leftovers as feed for a local heritage breed pig farm, in turn receiving local organic pork for house made charcuterie. Azu also Donates all of it’s used cooking oil to local partners for conversion into bio diesel.
Most recently Azu has begun Up-Cycling their Consumer Packaging, producing craft homeware and restaurant products including Drinking glasses, planters, candles, and gift baskets, reusing their wine boxes and cutting and repurposing wine and liquor bottles. Gift baskets are available seasonally from Elizabeth Haffner’s “Hippie Care Package”, through Azu, containing up-cycled goods and organic Azu craft food products.
Azu is a current participant in the “1% For Ojai” movement, generating local and tourism dollars for Land Preserve, Park, and Trail conservation, in partnership with The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy. Azu also hosted a fund raiser in March of 2015 for The Ojai Valley Defense Fund, $250,000 was raised that night and the Fund was able to reach their goal of $1M. “Ojai is a verdant paradise for my Daughter Elizabeth and our family, and I want it to be the same for my granddaughter Eva, when she takes over our family business," Says Chef/Owner Laurel Moore
Azu wouldn't be the place it is without it's amazing Staff. Chef de Cuisine Damien Halderman, joined the team in 2013. Bar Manager Richard Smith has been serving up his creations from behind the Azu Bar for over nine years. Front of House Manager Chris Foote, Assistant Manager Davis Moyers have been over seeing service over the years to execute the best service possible. And of course there are all the waiters, bartenders, bussers, cook's and dishwashers that make everything possible.
Every year Elizabeth Haffner and local D.J.'s The Wild Stallions throw a massive Halloween Dance Party, always on the 31st of October. Every year is a different theme with food, beverage's and decor. The Azu staff all dress in theme and by the end of the night everyone is dancing.