On April 1 at the Lumberyard restaurant, Laguna school principals dueled as guest “chefs,” serving up competing three-course meals to a sellout crowd of SchoolPower supporters. No, it wasn’t an April Fools joke; it was the 10th year of the Lumberyard Chef Challenge, a beloved event that this year raised over $10,000 for SchoolPower.
The event was conceived by Lumberyard owners Cary and Suzanne Redfearn. “It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years. Based loosely on reality cooking shows, it is a night of chef-inspired food along with the opportunity to mingle with the principals and other community leaders, all for the benefit of SchoolPower,” says Suzanne.
The Redfearns generously donate their restaurant, including all of the food and staff, for the event. Cary adds, “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.”
The principals select items and serve guests, but the dishes are actually conceived and prepared by Chef Josue Tavare and the Lumberyard staff. This year the elementary school principal duo of Chris Duddy and Michael Conlon took home the coveted Golden Spatula. Their entree, grilled Angus New York steak on a bed of mushroom risotto, beat out Laguna High School Principal Jason Allemann and Thurston Middle School Principal Jenny Salberg’s pan roasted Tasmanian Red Trout with spring vegetables. “I always enjoy some fun banter with parents in a casual environment and it’s for a worthy cause. Duddy and I look forward to continuing our winning streak next year!” says Principal Conlon.
New to the event was School Resource Officer Corporal Cornelius Ashton, who helped tally votes and announce the winners. SchoolPower trustee Monica Golden was excited to meet him at the event. “I had heard great things about Officer Ashton from my kids, so it was great to chat with him at the Lumberyard. He has a way of instantly engaging you and is such a positive person. I can tell why everyone loves ‘Officer Corn,’” she says.
Guests also sampled signature cocktail concoctions made by SchoolPower Endowment Board President Chris Clark and SchoolPower’s First Lady Katie Houlahan. Clark won the honor of top bartender for a third year running.
“Each year the event seems to get better—the food, the energy, the people—and we look forward to the tradition continuing for many years to come,” says Suzanne.