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'Best Bite' benefit to help a chef

For most of his adult life, Daniel Tracy has been a line cook at Western New York restaurants, including Tempo, Bravo and Mother's, honing his cooking skills while dreaming of opening his own place.

"Every time I stepped away and got a job in retail, I longed to be back at the stove," said Tracy, who grew up on Grand Island. "I love to cook."

At 33, when he expected to be looking for a restaurant lease, Tracy's cooking days are over. After becoming too weak to hoist saute pans and wield his chef's knife well, he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Most restaurant workers don't have health insurance, and Tracy is no exception. So friends and supporters in the industry are banding together for a fundraiser on Jan. 30 to raise money for Tracy.

Restaurants serving up food and competing for the "best bite" title include some of the city's finest: Tempo, Sample, Prime 490, Lombardo's, Oliver's, Nektar, Banchetti by Rizzo's, SeaBar and Torches. It will start at 4 p.m. at Banchetti by Rizzo's, 550 N. French Road, Amherst.

After ending his restaurant career as the executive sous chef at Black & Blue in June, Tracy has put his MBA to work as a senior loan officer at Bank of America. Despite 18 years of restaurant work, "I'm probably making more now," he said last month. He has reflected on the message he has given younger cooks over the years: "If you do not love doing this, don't do it, because it's a pretty stupid way to make a living."

The bank job gave him health insurance, but his ALS is a "pre-existing condition." Funds raised will help with an access ramp and other accessibility renovations, he said.

There will be raffles and live music as well. Tickets are $25 in advance, $30 at the door, available through BrownPaperTickets.com or participating restaurants. For more information, go to TheIronEvent.com.

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Fusion in six courses

Windows on the Green in the Westwood Country Club (772 N. Forest Road, Williamsville) will offer a fusion-themed six-course food and wine pairing menu on Jan. 29.

The featured wines blend from three to six varietals. The menu includes roasted duck salad with black mission fig vinaigrette; "pasta" paella with saffron flan; and a "wild game trio" plate.

The meal is $65 plus tax and tip; call 632-1166 for reservations. More information: windowsonthegreen.org.

Send your restaurant or food event news to agalarneau@buffnews.com