Like most cooks of his generation, Jeff Thomas, the chef at La Scala (9210 Transit Road, East Amherst, 213-2777) has spent his share of time on the couch yelling at the cooks on his television.

“I grew up watching Food Network and ‘Iron Chef’ and ‘Chopped,’ all these shows,” said Thomas. “I’ve always wanted to be involved. Now that I’m the head chef, things are falling into place.”

He’ll finally get to compete in an “Iron Chef”-style, 60-minute cooking battle as part of the Taste of Education fundraiser at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Salvatore’s Italian Gardens (6461 Transit Road, Depew). Thomas and his opponent, Joe Michno of Tony Rome’s (1537 Union Road, West Seneca, 675-4351), will use a mystery ingredient to make a salad, entrée and dessert for judges.

Taste of Education, run by the New York State Restaurant Association, raises money for the culinary students involved in the national ProStart culinary competition. This year’s theme is “Made in 716,” and local producers like Father Sam’s, Sorrento-Lactalis, Rosina, Sahlen’s and Weber’s will offer samples before the event. Inside, attendees can enjoy dishes prepared by culinary students.

Tickets are $20 presale, $25 door, and are available by emailing"> or calling 432-2300.


Foodie find: SEAsonings. Food, wine, live music and more to support Western New York’s only aquarium from 6 to 9 p.m. today in the Aquarium of Niagara (701 Whirlpool St.), Niagara Falls. Tickets are $49 at the door.