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Return of Lumberyard Chef Challenge serves up support for SchoolPower

On January 23 at the Lumberyard restaurant, LBUSD 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.

The event was conceived by Lumberyard owners Suzanne and Cary Redfearn, who generously donate their restaurant, including all of the food and staff. According to Cary, “We were so fortunate to have our kids attend school in Laguna and receive such a fabulous education – Chef Challenge is our way of giving back. We opened Lumberyard to be a community restaurant, and this event so epitomizes that goal.”

Return of Lumberyard Jason Viloria group

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Photos by Candice Dartez Photographer

(L-R) LBUSD Superintendent Jason Viloria, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Lumberyard owner Cary Redfearn, Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler and El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel 

Supporters were especially enthusiastic about Monday’s event because of its pause due to COVID. “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!”

Return of Lumberyard Thurston Principal group

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(L-R) Thurston Principal Joe Vidal, Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Allemann, El Morro Principal Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Principal Meghan Schooler

The principals select items and serve guests, but the dishes are actually conceived and prepared by Chef Primo and the Lumberyard staff. This year, the LBHS-Thurston Middle School principal duo of Dr. Jason Allemann and Joe Vidal took home the coveted Golden Spatula award with their entrée – 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 Dr. Julie Hatchel and Top of the World Elementary’s Megan Schooler.

“I am always appreciative of the profound support of parents and our greater school community at these one-of-a-kind events,” said Dr. Allemann. “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.”

Return of Lumberyard Dechary and Sadhal

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SchoolPower President Amy Dechary serves up her signature cocktail “Bad Apple” while former President Harpal Sadhal mixes up his “Bees Knees” for the Bartender Competition

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.”

Return of Lumberyard Livel Real Estate

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(L-R) Livel Real Estate team members Tiffany Frey, Elaine Brashier, Jill Lockhart and Meital Taub

Return of Lumberyard Katie and Nicole

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(L-R) SchoolPower supporters Katie MacGillivray and Nicole Anderson

“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,” said Dr. Hatchel. “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.”

Return of Lumberyard Resslers

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SchoolPower supporters Barron and Kim Ressler

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

Return of Lumberyard Vidal and Alleman

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(L-R) Thurston Principal Joe Vidal and Laguna Beach High School Principal Jason Alleman are named as the winners and presented with the “Golden Spatula” 

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. For more information about SchoolPower, visit


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