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Student chefs get first-class reviews

Budding chefs at Niagara University are cooking up the hottest dinners in town, and those looking for a spot at the table will have to wait until at least fall -- if they're lucky.

The College of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the school has been offering fine dining at reasonable prices on Thursday evenings this semester. Students in the school have been cooking for dozens at a time.

But the rest of this semester's Student Managers Dining Series 2006 is booked solid, and many of the 80 who attended the dinner on a recent Thursday were repeat customers in the Statler Dining Room at St. Vincent's Hall.

Scott A. Beahen, director of food service operations for the school, announced at the dinner's start:

"This is a class . . . The whole concept here is make sure they do all their mistakes in the lab."

During the fall semester, the students hold buffet dinners, Beahen said.

"As we get into the spring semester, we get into a little bit of fine dining," he added.

All the dinners cost $15. Tips are optional.

Students Christopher R. Zarnosky of New Jersey and Daniel J. Tighe of Niagara Falls were the managers in charge of the recent event, selecting a steakhouse dinner for the theme.

Included in the night's meal were a virgin Bloody Mary shrimp cocktail, with the shrimp, celery stalk and lemon wedge right in the cocktail; a hodgepodge, which included beer-battered and fried mushrooms, zucchini and cauliflower served with dressings; lobster bisque; a steakhouse salad; a New York strip steak served with a baked potato and freshly grilled asparagus or chicken Oscar, topped with chunk crab, grilled asparagus and hollandaise sauce; Dutch apple pie ala mode; and coffee.

Tighe, a senior, said his years at Niagara University already have won him a job in New York City as a front desk manager for a Marriott hotel when he graduates.

A junior from North Tonawanda, Vanessa R. Husvar said she thinks she has found her calling.

"I want to do catering and event planning. I just love being in the front of the restaurant, the quick pace of it and making people happy," she said.

Teresa T. Carroll of Niagara Falls was lucky enough to attend the event. A repeat customer, she said, "We were here two weeks ago, and they had scallops, lamb chops, rack of lamb, and everything was just wonderful."

Beahen said the experience was a great one for students, who are thinking of getting into the restaurant and hotel business.

e-mail: pkowalik@buffnews.com

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