Lumberyard Chef Challenge an tasty annual fundraiser for Schoolpower


On Jan. 29 at the Lumberyard restaurant, Laguna Beach Unified School District principals dueled as guest “chefs” for the Lumberyard Chef Challenge befitting SchoolPower. Served three-course meals and signature cocktails, the full-house crowd of SchoolPower supporters agreed that the evening was hilarious and heart-warming.

Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler, Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, and El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel at the 12th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo/Candice Dartez Photography

This event was made possible by the owners of Lumberyard, Suzanne and Cary Redfearn, who donated their restaurant, including all food and staff. SchoolPower coordinates the fundraising by inviting parents, friends and supporters to buy tickets for the three-course meal. 

“We were so fortunate to have our kids attend school in Laguna and receive such a fabulous education,” Cary Redfearn said. “Chef Challenge is our way of giving back. We opened Lumberyard to be a community restaurant, and this event so epitomizes that goal.” 

Lumberyard Restaurant fills with SchoolPower supporters for the 12th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo by Candice Dartez Photography

To compete in the Chef Challenge, the four Laguna principals select entrees and sides, then serve guests (although the dishes are actually conceived and prepared by Chef Primo and the Lumberyard staff). This year the LBHS-El Morro Elementary School principal duo of Jason Allemann and Julie Hatchel took home the coveted Golden Spatula award with their entree of grilled New York steak with a mustard demi glace, warm pee-wee potato salad and shaved asparagus. The team narrowly edged out the delicious pan-roasted halibut with lobster risotto devised by Thurston Middle School’s Joe Vidal and Top of the World Elementary’s Megan Schooler.

Lumberyard owner Cary Redfearn mingles with Suzanne Redfearn and friends at the 12th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo by Candice Dartez Photography

“SchoolPower’s Lumberyard Chef Challenge event is an amazing opportunity for our greater community to come together for a fun and competitive night for a great cause. It is an honor to be a small part of raising funds for the students, teachers, and programs of LBUSD,” said repeat winner Alleman. “And, it’s always a pleasure to connect with parents in this festive environment.”

Guests also sampled signature cocktail concoctions handcrafted at the bar by SchoolPower trustees Katie and Shaun MacGillivray. Shaun’s Stay Classy Skinny Margarita barely beat Katie’s Skinny Beach cocktail. 

“It was our first time tending bar together and we had a blast,” said Katie. “But, I have to say that our drinks were much better with help from Lumberyard pros Jeannie Simmons and Amber Nyson.”

Guest bartenders and SchoolPower trustees Shaun and Katie MacGillivray compete at the 11th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo by Candice Dartez Photography

Hatchel, principal of El Morro Elementary, noted “we appreciate the partnership of SchoolPower, Lumberyard, and LBUSD working together to support our students. We principals look forward to this annual event where we can serve our community in a creative way with food, fun, and lots of energy.” 

The event raised $12,000 to support SchoolPower’s Grant Program, administration of the After School Program, and family support services offered through the Family Resource Center.

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