Lumberyard hosts 8th Annual SchoolPower Chef Challenge fundraiser for local schools

Quite a while back, Cary and Suzanne Redfearn, owners of the Lumberyard, approached SchoolPower with an idea for a fundraiser titled the “Chef Challenge”: one night, two teams, and two competing three-course menus with delighted participants selecting the winner by voting for their favorite dishes. 

Now, eight years later, the event is legendary.

“The level of support from the Redfearns for our schools and community has been exemplary,” enthused Taylor Pillsbury, SchoolPower president. “It’s people like them who make our town so special.” 

Photo credit: Kristin Karkoska, Blue Sky Studios

The Redfearns are the kinds of people “who make our town so special” says SchoolPower President Taylor Pillsbury

Fast forward to Monday night when the 8th Annual Chef Challenge was held to great success. In the seven previous years, the event’s competition was based around some variation of either two or all four LBUSD schools’ principals competing against one another. This year the competition broadened its scope and became the “City vs Schools” contest, with Laguna Beach Police Chief Laura Farinella and Laguna Beach Fire Chief Jeff LaTendresse vs LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria and Interim Assistant Superintendent Jeff Dixon.

More than 110 enthusiastic patrons filled the Lumberyard. In a hint of the competition to come, before guests were seated for dinner they were treated to yet another new twist this year: dueling guest bartenders. Taylor Pillsbury and SchoolPower Endowment president Chris Clark gamely mixed their own signature cocktails for the lively crowd. 

Once the crowd was seated for dinner they had the delightfully difficult job of selecting which item they preferred: Crab ricotta ravioli or roasted lamb meatball? Pan-roasted Arctic Char or grilled filet medallions? Coconut crème brulee or Belgian chocolate tart?  The items were so delicious it was extremely difficult to choose.

The competitors worked tirelessly the entire night serving, bussing, refilling glasses – anything to sway the crowd to their side. When the diners were stuffed to capacity and the votes were all tallied, Team Schools went home with the title. Of course, the night’s real winners were Laguna Beach schools. The evening raised approximately $8,000.

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo credit: Kristin Karkoska, Blue Sky Studios

Fire Chief Jeff La Tendresse, Chief of Police Laura Farinella, LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria and Interim Assistant Superintendent, Business Services Jeff Dixon shake hands before the competition kicks off.

Superintendent Viloria said, “It was an amazing opportunity to support SchoolPower and the students that attend LBUSD.  Special thanks to Lumberyard staff for an amazing meal and service as they ran circles around the four of us. We are so thankful that Chief Farinella and Chief LaTendresse were willing to participate. Their partnership and ongoing support is important to the education of our students. I am hopeful that even though Jeff Dixon and I won hands down, it won’t scare them away from a potential rematch next year.”

Chief La Tendresse had his own ideas about the evening, saying, “I was honored to be able to give back to the community, to SchoolPower, as a member of their Fire Department. This community supports us each and every day, which is why I cherish these opportunities to show the appreciation on behalf of all of our Firefighters.

“It was fun to ‘compete’ with the Police Chief against the schools; frankly I think we worked harder but they got more votes. I hope we can build from the relationships established that night and continue to serve the students and community. Watch out for next year!”

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Lynette Brasfield is our Features Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor.

Maggi Henrikson is our Contributing Editor.

Michael Sterling is our Webmaster.

Katie Ford is our Ad Designer.

Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Cameron Gillespie, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Laura Buckle, Marrie Stone, Samantha Washer and Suzie Harrison are staff writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are the staff photographers.

Stacia Stabler is our Account & Instagram Manager.

We all love Laguna and we love what we do.

Email: for questions about advertising


Email: with news releases, letters, etc.