Beautifully laid brick adorns the bar that overlooks the dimly lit restaurant. Candles provide ambiance lighting to the tables, which sit below walls embellished with contemporary artwork. Vintage and modern bottles of wine sit atop wall-mounted racks. Each detail of Dolce is carefully curated to bring an enchanting fine-dining experience unique to Omaha.
Anthony Kueper, the owner and head chef of Dolce, has perfected his craft through years of education, training and experience. The master chef’s impressive resume shows experience in various culinary fields in several countries. Chef Kueper earned the 2022 James Beard Award as a semifinalist for Best Chef in the Midwest, an honor he also received in 2020.
However, Kueper says he comes from humble beginnings. A child of a military family, he spent much of his youth uprooting and traveling across the world. He began cooking for his siblings as a teenager. His mother worked full time and his father was active-duty military, so the responsibility to cook meals for the family often became Kueper’s responsibility.
“I started cooking real meals for them after my sister, who is six years younger than me, tried to pour a can of water into Spaghetti-o’s like you would a can of condensed soup,” Kueper says. “Then, I decided to just start going through cookbooks and learning the recipes. My first-ever cookbook was ‘The Joy of Cooking’ by Irma Rombauer.”
Prior to moving to Omaha, Kueper lived in Colorado where he worked at several restaurants. He began as a line cook at a French restaurant to help put himself through college. He soon started working directly below the chef, shadowing him and learning the technicalities of French culinary. This is where he first fell in love with the art of cooking, and built his arsenal of skills.
“I began cooking and became a chef by accident,” Kueper says. “I was originally in school for business, but I wanted to play hockey professionally until I had an injury that ended my career.”
After leaving school, he continued to pursue his culinary career by working at the Ritz Carlton, where he worked at different hotels across the country. While working in the hospitality industry, Kueper worked directly beneath chefs, learning different skills and techniques that he has carried with him throughout his career. Once he returned to Aspen after traveling with the Ritz Carlton, he met his future wife, Daniela, and they later moved to Germany.
Kueper worked at the Claasenhof, a one-star Michelin restaurant in Hamburg, Germany. During his time in Germany, he helped the restaurant earn a coveted second star. He also studied under chefs in Denmark and says this is where he learned many of his skills.
After his stint in Germany, Kueper began to travel the world, learning to cook from different chefs and cultures across the globe. He says he gained the most inspiration, for his signature dishes from Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
“My favorite country based on food is Japan,” Kueper says. “I could eat through it like Godzilla. Thailand is another great country to visit; they have the most amazing street food.”
When Kueper and his wife returned to Aspen, he decided to dive head-first into his career as a chef. By experimenting with new ingredients, he developed his own personal flare to cooking. Kueper says he discovered his favorite way to cook, which is to take a very traditional cuisine and then add his own personal touches.
“My career really took off in Aspen,” Kueper says. “It allowed me to explore new flavors, and really find myself as a chef. I may be cocky in my cooking but I know how to stay humble. There’s always more to learn.”
While living in Colorado, Kueper opened the Beaver Creek Lodge and then moved on to positions at Red Sky Ranch, Toscanini and Vin 48. In 2012, with their twins’ arrival, Kueper and his wife moved their family back to Omaha. He spent a year at V Mertz working with chef Jon Seymour.
Gina Sterns, the former owner of Dolce, hired Kueper as a sous chef but he quickly moved to chef status. In March 2017, the couple purchased the restaurant and became the sole owners. He began working to partner with more local producers, and create a menu that offers contemporary twists on classic pairings.
One of Dolce’s most popular dishes is its mouth-watering fried Brussel sprouts paired with Asian-inspired pork belly. The dish is served with homemade aioli created by Kueper, who takes great pride in his inspired menu that uses only the freshest and carefully selected ingredients.
Today, Chef Kueper has transformed Dolce into an intimate dining experience, both classy and comfortable—perfect for a lunch with friends or a special date night. ◆