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.
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.
Jeremy Haffner, Husband to Elizabeth, in a joint venture with Laurel founded Ojai Valley Brewery in 2015. Previous to becoming the Brewmaster and building a nano brewery Jeremy toured the world with his rock band, Oedipus. Jeremy was also the gelato master and a chef at Azu restaurant throughout the years in between touring. He has brought his incredible palate and artistic vision to the Brewery which focuses on local foraged and farmed ingredients with beers designed to enjoy in the hot Ojai climate.
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