Return of Lumberyard Chef Challenge Serves Up Support for SchoolPower

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On Jan. 23 at the Lumberyard restaurant, Laguna Beach school principals dueled as guest “chefs,” serving up competing three-course meals to a cheering, full-house crowd of SchoolPower supporters. No, the Monday evening event wasn’t the kickoff of a new reality series but the comeback of a beloved event called the SchoolPower Lumberyard Chef Challenge.

Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler at the 11th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo by Candice Dartez, Candice Dartez Photography

The event was conceived by Lumberyard owners Suzanne and Cary Redfearn, who generously donated their restaurant, including all of the food and staff for the event. 

“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 epitomizes that goal.” 

Supporters were especially enthusiastic about Monday’s event because of its pause due to Covid. 

LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Lumberyard owner Cary Redfearn, El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler at the 11th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo by Candice Dartez, Candice Dartez Photography

“This year’s challenge was a welcome homecoming after a three year hiatus,” said Harpal Sadhal, last year’s SchoolPower president. “It’s always a great way to unite the community… Dueling bartender-presidents, competing principal-chefs, and all to support students of the LBUSD schools.” 

The principals select items and serve guests, but Chef Primo and the Lumberyard staff conceived and prepared the dishes. This year the LBHS-Thurston Middle School principal duo of Jason Allemann and Joe Vidal took home the coveted Golden Spatula award with their entree, grilled branzino on a bed of sundried tomatoes and couscous. Admittedly, they narrowly beat the delicious short ribs with horseradish potato puree devised by the elementary school team of El Morro’s Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Elementary’s Megan Schooler. 

SchoolPower supporters Katie MacGillivray and Nicole Anderson enjoy the 11th annual Lumberyard Chef Challenge benefiting SchoolPower. Photo by Candice Dartez, Candice Dartez Photography

“I am always appreciative of the profound support of parents and our greater school community at these one-of-a-kind events. The Chef Challenge exemplifies a great message to our young adults at the high school when they can see and hear about a function that brings local businesses, family, friends, and educators together to support our schools,” Allemann said.

Guests also sampled signature cocktail concoctions handcrafted at the bar by current SchoolPower President Amy Dechary and last year’s SchoolPower President Harpal Sadhal. Sadhal’s Bee’s Knees cocktail narrowly beat Dechary’s Bad Apple. “It was my first time tending bar,” she said, “and I’m so grateful to Lumberyard’s expert mixologists Jeannie Simons and Amber Nyson for showing us the ropes. I’m eagerly awaiting another shot at a win next year.”

“The partnership of SchoolPower and Lumberyard was incredible, sponsoring an event filled with high energy, fun, and good-hearted competition and, of course, great food,” Hatchel said. “I was honored to be a part of it and have the opportunity to get to know and interact with our parents in a different environment.” 

The event raised over $9,000, which will support SchoolPower’s grant program and family support services offered through the Family Resource Center. 

SchoolPower is the parent volunteer-based, non-profit education foundation that has raised money for Laguna Beach public schools since 1981. SchoolPower’s mission is to enrich the education and support the well-being of all children in the Laguna Beach Unified School District. Through SchoolPower grants, the Family Resource Center, and the After School Program, SchoolPower supports academics, athletics, visual and performing arts, music, student experiences, social and emotional wellness, and community connections. Learn more about SchoolPower at lbschoolpower.org.

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