Amanda Sheeler, Executive Chef at the lovely, quaint V. Mertz, crafts pasta that is so perfect, guests have been known to nearly weep over the first bite. It seems she was destined to become a chef, cooking breakfast as a youngster with her Nonna, later bussing tables, and finally working under her late uncle Dino’s watchful eye in the kitchen at the family restaurant, Lo Sole Mio. As a member of her high school culinary competition team, Sheeler earned a scholarship to The Institute for Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College, where she excelled, honing her craft and forging relationships with fellow culinarians.
After working her way up the ranks in the Omaha restaurant community in popular spots such as Ugly Duck, Avoli Osteria, and Modern Love, Sheeler found herself back at V. Mertz, working with Chef Jake Newton and General Manager Matt Brown, who together fostered a cohesive culture in the tiny kitchen, instilling in every staff member the confidence to embrace history and venture boldly in new directions. Now at the helm, Sheeler is grateful to continue this tradition of trust.
Located in the Old Market Passageway, the establishment holds a special place in Sheeler’s heart. “I like the history; the space has a lot of charm, and the people who work here have a high level of dedication that they bring to the craft. Everyone holds each other accountable and wants to work toward a common goal in both the front and back of the house.”
Sheeler calls her style modern and contemporary but always grounded in dishes that are approachable for midwestern palates. Seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors find their way to the menu in creative, yet approachable ways, and innovation is encouraged – Sheeler prioritizes mentorship, and everyone is given time to discuss and execute ideas when feasible.
Perhaps the most apt expression of seasonal delights is found in the chef’s tasting menu, to which all cooks are encouraged to contribute. Sheeler is clearly a proud leader, happily crediting the individual who developed or inspired a particular dish. To wit: the kimcheese tart, an ingenious creation found on the chef’s tasting menu this past summer, was the brainchild of one of the sous chefs, Natalie Ones, resident preservation guru.
The V. Mertz kitchen is pushing the boundaries even further by developing house-made beverages such as rhubarb schnapps, mead, and kombucha. Sheeler’s goal is to cook relatable food—ingredients guests can connect to a memory—but a composed dish that might be unfamiliar or unrecognizable on the plate when it arrives at the table. “We love to present dishes in a way that is outside the box,” she explained. “Time, place, and smell…all the sensory things are there with food.”
Working with a team of food lovers and exuberant learners, Sheeler is reminded daily that inspiration can come from casual conversations during a shift, treasured memories, or individual experiences. It’s evident that mutual respect is de rigueur in this space, individuals coming together as one to ensure a seamless guest experience.