Who Is Wolfgang Puck's Son Byron?

Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck has been a fixture of the U.S. culinary world since he moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1975 and caught the eyes of the famous and well-to-do. Shortly after, Puck married his second wife Barbara Lazaroff with whom he had two children in the course of their 20-year marriage. Learning from both his famous father and business-savvy mother, their younger son Byron Lazaroff-Puck now seems poised to take over the Wolfgang Puck empire they built.

There is no doubt that these are some big shoes to fill. Both Lazaroff-Puck's parents are multi-award winners, and his father's name is attached to three companies: Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, Wolfgang Puck Catering, and Wolfgang Puck Worldwide, Inc. The elder Puck shows no signs of slowing down just yet, but he has already brought his son into the family business as he considers his legacy.

So who is this heir presumptive, Byron Lazaroff-Puck? What are his credentials? And can he stand on his own two feet? Let's find out.

At 13 Byron Lazaroff-Puck knew he wanted to enter the restaurant business

In 1982, Wolfgang Puck opened his first restaurant Spago in West Hollywood right on the Sunset Strip, and it was an instant success, according to Eater. His wife Barbara Lazaroff worked with him in the design of the restaurant (via Forbes Factor). When their son Byron Lazaroff-Puck was 12 years old, he too joined the family endeavor by becoming a dishwasher at Spago, Los Angeles Magazine reports.

About a year later, Lazaroff-Puck announced that he intended to follow his parents into the restaurant business. "It was a proclamation of sorts at my bar mitzvah that I have never lived down," he joked on Kitchen Chat (via YouTube). "So I just got to keep it going at this point."

When he was 18 years old, Lazaroff-Puck relocated from another restaurant job in New York City to Chicago to work under chef Grant Achatz at his three-star Michelin restaurant Alinea. He was so blown away by Achatz's culinary innovation that he dedicated himself to his dream of becoming a chef and restaurateur. He explained on Kitchen Chat, "The ability to come in and create this unbelievable array of food every single day that, most of the time, no one had ever seen a dish like that before, was just uncanny to me. I thought it was the coolest thing ever."

He is the second of four boys

Lazaroff-Puck is not the only child of Barbara Lazaroff and Wolfgang Puck. Puck spoke with Forbes about his family, mentioning his eldest son Cameron Lazaroff-Puck, a full-time Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany. He also has two younger half-brothers, Oliver and Alexander, born to Puck's third wife, fashion designer Gelila Assefa. Originally from Ethiopia, Assefa met her now husband in Los Angeles in 1997, per Harper's Bazaar.

After earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree in History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, it would seem that Cameron is on his own unique career path. Meanwhile, as of 2021, Puck told Forbes that his two younger sons were enrolled in a Swiss boarding school. No word on if they also intend to join their father and older brother in the busy culinary world or restaurant business. Regardless, Puck is immensely proud of all of his children.

He attended Cornell University

One important step to becoming a successful restaurateur is to be comfortable with all aspects of the culinary world. "Post college, I went to Cornell's hospitality school and focused more on the business side of things," Lazaroff-Puck said on Kitchen Chat.

That would be the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University, one of the most prestigious in the world. Not only is Cornell University an Ivy League, but according to Leverage, the branch he studied at was ranked second globally in 2021 in the category of best hospitality and hotel management schools.

Johnson & Wales University lists strong leadership, organizational skills, and a solid sense of business as requirements for being a successful restaurateur. There is little doubt that Lazaroff-Puck gained these while earning his degree at Cornell. After all, world-famous chef Wolfgang Puck wouldn't partner with just anybody, and there is more to his brand than delicious cooking.

As a child, he was not an adventurous eater

You would think that growing up with two parents in the restaurant business (one of them a world-famous chef no less) would foster an interest in food of all kinds. That may be the case for Byron Lazaroff-Puck now that he is an adult, but as a child he was a "whiteatarian," a term coined by Julie Kendrick in an article for HuffPost (via YouTube). 

This means that he and countless other children (and some adults) would only eat foods that are white or very light in color, such as buttered pasta, white bread, potato chips, cheese sticks ... you get the idea. Colorful vegetables are out. Such a diet is generally high in carbohydrates and lacking in key nutrients like calcium, iron, and vitamin D, according to Nutrition for Kids.

Luckily for the Puck family, around age 11 Byron was talked into trying uni (sea urchin) at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. He explains on Kitchen Chat, "It was like a complete mind-altering experience. [...] I realized I was missing out on so much up to that point." A new world was opened to him. Now he is in love with the creativity inherent in cooking.

He grew up learning how to cook professionally in restaurants

Byron Lazaroff-Puck got an early start working as a dishwasher at his parents' restaurant Spago. But that isn't all; he also studied under the Spago pastry chef until he was about 16 years old (via Kitchen Chat).

In high school, he spent a summer in London where he worked for Nobu Matsuhisa, another world-renowned celebrity chef with his own culinary empire. It was a fantastic experience but also rough for the young chef. He said on Kitchen Chat, "I had to overcome expectations but, at the same time, really train myself to get as good as possible, so I felt like I was keeping up and didn't feel like I was an anchor or a weight pulling the rest of the staff down."

After Nobu, Lazaroff-Puck went to New York to work for famous French chef Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin. He pursued his training working for Grant Achatz at the age of 18 in Chicago, then followed it up with restaurants in Spain and France, before heading back to the United States to work in Seattle.

Wolfgang Puck said in Food & Wine, "My son doesn't want to cook like me. He wants to create his own style. It's a very exciting time for young chefs. I can learn more from a 28-year-old than a 68-year-old."

Byron never feels more at home than in a restaurant

Byron's mother Barbara shared on Kitchen Chat, "I used to bring the children to the restaurant [Spago] all the time because I waited so long to have children. [...] I didn't want to be separated from them." 

In the same interview, Lazaroff-Puck also opened up about his childhood in a restaurant. He recognized how his youth spent in these establishments influenced his understanding of the business from multiple perspectives. He went on to say, "It's been an incredible blessing for me because it's just guided me towards a certain path. And once I was around 13 and decided what I wanted to do, I never felt more at home, in a job perspective at least, than when I was at a restaurant."

Speaking with Forbes, the young chef explained, "when you're not in the restaurant, it feels like your child and you are worried about it. And when you're away from it [...] it just feels wrong in a sense." Clearly, Puck's son was meant to follow in his footsteps. 

He worked at Wolfgang Puck's test kitchen

A test kitchen is a space where chefs create and try out new recipes (via Zestful Kitchen). Basically, it's research and development for food. This could be for a recipe book, magazine, TV show, restaurant, or other projects. These recipes are made multiple times and face a tasting panel until they are deemed perfect. It's no surprise that a culinary empire like Wolfgang Puck's uses a test kitchen.

When Byron Lazaroff-Puck graduated from Cornell University, he worked along with two other chefs in the Wolfgang Puck Test Kitchen in Los Angeles, where according to Lazaroff-Puck, "the name of the game was you don't cook anything that's a Wolfgang Puck recipe, and hopefully whatever you make has never been seen before" (via Kitchen Chat).

At the Wolfgang Puck Test Kitchen, new recipes for commercial lines are developed, such as canned soups and frozen pizzas, according to Departures. Sometimes Puck also uses it for ticketed events, inviting a small group of diners to try some of his latest avant-garde creations.

He is an advocate for sustainability

In early 2021, the Pew Research Center reported that Millennials and Gen Zers are more concerned about climate change and taking action to curb its effects than older generations. Byron Lazaroff-Puck falls into step with his peers. He said on Kitchen Chat, "For me personally, I'm very huge on sustainability." He went on to remark that a large proportion of Millennials prioritize businesses "that are focused on the local community, environmental sustainability, and the ultimate appeal of giving back."

The foundations for sustainability have already been laid by his father. Wolfgang Puck Catering Dallas partners with organizations local to the Dallas-Fort Worth region to help end food waste. They purchase produce from local farms while providing food scraps to be composted at those same farms. Wolfgang Puck restaurants in Los Angeles also source local ingredients and serve sustainable seafood. Meanwhile, Wolfgang Puck Coffee makes use of recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable materials in its packaging and products when possible. The coffee selection is also fair trade certified, and the roasting plant uses all green power, both natural and renewable.

He is a third generation chef

Wolfgang Puck's mother worked in the summertime as a professional chef for the Hotel Linde, a resort hotel in Austria. "I used to spend days swimming or helping the pastry chef while my mum worked," he said in The Telegraph. Puck enjoyed playing in the kitchen as a child, so it was only natural that when he left home at 14, he went on to apprentice in a hotel kitchen for the next three years (via Los Angeles Times).

When he had children, they too grew up in a restaurant kitchen, and his second son took to cooking just as Puck himself did. Similarly, Byron left to pursue a career as a chef during his teen years (via Kitchen Chat). "My son Byron is great in the kitchen too," Puck told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "We've worked in some great restaurants in Europe. [...] I'm excited to see him actually being successful ​​and stressed like crazy." Seeing his son hard at work in a kitchen, as the third generation in the family to do so, reminds Puck of his own journey.

He took over as general manager for two of Wolfgang Puck's restaurants in 2020

West Hollywood Sunset Strip is home to several Southern California hot spots such as the Viper Room, the Roxy Theatre, and the Laugh Factory. It is also where you will find Wolfgang Puck's Asian-inspired rooftop bistro Merois, just above the Pendry West Hollywood hotel. Also located at the Pendry at the street level is an Italian-style cafe Ospero, run by Puck too. In fact, the chef is in charge of all food at the Pendry, right down to room service.

And who did Puck choose to be the general manager at these two special restaurant locations? His son, of course. But it wasn't nepotism that got Byron Lazaroff-Puck the job. He had already proved himself capable by managing Spago Beverly Hills for two years, about six years ahead of his father's timeline. In 2012, after Spago Beverly Hills underwent a renovation, Puck shared in Eater LA, "My son wants to take over, but he's 17. I'm going to send him to Cornell so he can study management, so in 10, 12, 15 years when he's ready to take over, we'll need the new blood."

Wolfgang Puck wants to see Byron take over the empire

The Wolfgang Puck empire is global and ever-expanding. To say the famed chef has built quite the legacy is an understatement. And it is not an easy task. According to the Los Angeles Times, Puck spends about half the year traveling, which is understandable considering that between all of his businesses, more than 4,000 people work for him around the world.

Many have approached Puck about selling his companies (via Los Angeles Magazine). "I really don't want to do that," Puck said. "Ideally, it will stay a family business. My dream is to look down from heaven and say, 'Oh my God, the kids are doing much better than I did.'"

And Byron Lazaroff-Puck certainly seems well-positioned to take on this enormous job. Perhaps one day he will be assisted by his younger brothers or a child of his own, passing the legacy on to a fourth generation.