Growing up in small-town Albion, Nebraska, Chef Curtis Luettel said a lot of family time happened around the dinner table. In fact, he said sitting down for a home cooked meal every night was the norm. From a very young age, Luettel was inspired by food — he even loved watching cooking shows in his free time — and it didn’t take long for him to realize he had a passion for the culinary arts.
After graduation, he moved to Omaha to attend The Institute for the Culinary Arts at Metropolitan Community College. While in the city, he worked at The French Bulldog, Over Easy, and Ugly Duck.
He then moved back to his hometown and made plans to open his first restaurant, The Stirred Pot. Luettel’s mom, Jacque, who has been an integral part of the restaurant’s success from the beginning, named the business. Luettel said the name was chosen because, “When you stir the pot, you cause trouble. When you open a business in a small town it always causes a stir.”
The Stirred Pot opened March 2018 with the first menu consisting of four sandwiches, soups, salads, and hand cut fries. The business was going very well, until a year and a half later when the building it occupied was sold. Luettel looked for other locations to rent, with no luck. The hunt ended when the City of Albion informed him that he could set up a food truck downtown, which he opened in March 2020.
Luettel cooks from scratch and uses fresh ingredients whenever possible. Made with bacon, lettuce, tomato, garlic aioli and tomato jam, the BLT is an especially popular menu item. The Bike Shop Burger — consisting of 80% ground beef and 20% ground bacon on a brioche bun from the North Fork Bread Company — pays homage to the former bike shop location on which the restaurant is now situated. The burger is topped with a fry sauce that includes mayo, ketchup, pickle relish and a few other ingredients.
In the summer, many local farmers bring buckets of produce to sell to the restaurant. “Local farmers appreciate what we do,” Luettel said. “They appreciate that we use local produce and that nothing goes to waste. They are so supportive.” Luettel described Albion as a growing community that hosts concerts and rodeos, while still maintaining a slower lifestyle.
For aspiring cooks, Luettel said he encourages them to follow their dream, as he did. “Go for it and don’t be afraid,” Luettel said. “It’s a passion. Get out there and try things.”