Artist-turned-chef finds niche in Everett neighborhood

Story, photos and audio by Kelly Bradley, NewsNetNebraska

Duane Wunderlich had been trying to find his niche in life, when one day he turned on his TV and became intrigued with a new calling.

“I started watching this program called “Great Chefs.” It showcased a lot of European chefs and dishes that interested me,” he said. “It really grabbed me and inspired me and so I really wanted to work in a restaurant.”1

And so, his new-found career was born.

The 49-year-old Wunderlich, a lifelong Lincoln resident, originally had wanted to be an artist. In 1986, he enrolled at Wesleyan University, first studying graphic design and then later art.

“It was kind of a hard pill to swallow, but I realized that I didn’t necessarily have the talent to pull off a viable career in visual arts.”

So he began to pursue a career in the dining industry – by first washing dishes at a Lincoln restaurant downtown. On the job, the chef would have him cook during down time and teach him, giving him valuable skills in food preparation. From there, Wunderlich would continue to move up as a chef at several other Lincoln businesses, both corporate and independently owned.

Wunderlich now lives and works in the Everett neighborhood. He lives in a Victorian-style house that was built near the late 1800s that was he said was impeccably built and maintained.

He runs the food service for the F Street Community Center, where he plans and prepares daily meals for the Everett residents who take part in the center’s programs.

His favorite part of the day is the two-hour free meal program for children who live in the neighborhood.

“Some children don’t necessarily have anything to come home to, so we help them out here,” he said. “We did just over 6,800 meals for children last year, and that’s pretty much just me. I’m the only person who works in the kitchen here full time.”

Wunderlich discusses the diversity of the people in Everett: 

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