Barbara Lazaroff is most famously known for her partnership with her former husband, Wolfgang Punk, for whom she designed all their renowned current and former restaurants. These include the Asian-infused Chinois, the marine-inspired Granita, and the iconic Spago, among many others. In her designs Lazaroff introduced many innovations such as the exhibition kitchen, the organic flow between indoor and outdoor spaces, and walls filled with the work of contemporary artists. These elements are now so much a part of the restaurant zeitgeist as to be ubiquitous.
Although many people may not realize this, Barbara is not just about design. She is the power behind the brand that is Wolgang Puck. Her vision was of a dining experience that began well before the food was ever placed before the patron. As she puts it, “You dine with your eyes first.” Her insights were inspired as much by psychology as by aesthetics. She knew that people have visceral reactions to colors, light, and textures, and that they love being swept away by welcoming spaces rich in fantasy and imagination.
Barbara also knew, early on, how to combine artistic inspiration with business savvy, co-operating with her husband not only the fine-dining venues, but expansions into such areas as catering, retail food lines, Wolfgang Puck Cafes, and Wolfgang Puck Expresses which dot countless shopping malls and airports throughout the country.
Barbara’s interests and abilities have always been far ranging. She studied dance and theatre in college, paying her own way by holding down three jobs, two of which were working in a blood gas analysis lab, and at a hospital. This led her into an interest in pre-med which she pursued for a number of years before deciding to follow a different path. "I had a broad spectrum of experiences,” Barbara says, “And I think that’s what a lot of kids don’t get now, in that they don’t know what they want to do necessarily, and they don’t get to try out different things.”
In the day to day operation of the Wolfgang Puck empire, Barbara also wore many hats. “I was doing many different things,” she says. “I was dealing with contracts, I was writing business presentations, I was on the real estate committee, at one point I was even working on the writing of the menus! Later I headed up the design and architecture wing of the food company. Oh, and I was having babies too!”
While running restaurants and raising two sons, Barbara also become an avid philanthropist and fundraiser for such organizations as Meals on Wheels, The American Cancer Society, The Children’s Museum, The Israel Cancer Research Fund, Aids Project LA, and Project Angel Food, just to cite a partial list.
As a writer, Barbara has contributed a number of blogs to HuffPost, as well as co-authoring (with Tricia LaVoice) the book, Wishes For a Mother's Heart. She was a co-producer and interviewee on the film: Femme: Women Healing the World. And she currently hosts a podcast called Exuberant Living with Barbara Lazaroff.
We are proud to feature Barbara Lazaroff as one of our amazing women in RenWomen: What Modern Renaissance Women Have to Teach Us About Living Rich, Full Lives.