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  • Writer's pictureKara Marselle

Chicago's only Native American executive chef shares her food, culture in Wisconsin

Chef Jessica Paemonekot is a member of Wisconsin's Menominee Tribe.

Updated: 6:49 PM CDT Nov 2, 2022

Gerron Jordan, Anchor/Reporter MILWAUKEE —November is Native American Heritage Month and an indigenous chef is sharing her culture and food with Milwaukee. Chef Jessica Paemonekot is the executive chef of Ketapanen Kitchen. "In the Menominee language, ketapenen is an expression of love," she explained. She is a lifelong member of Wisconsin's Menominee Tribe and represents the only Native American executive chef in Chicago.

"It's like, 'Wow, we're in 2022 and this is just now happening?'” she said. "Those doors were never open to us, and now that they're opening up, hopefully I can open them up for everyone behind me," Paemonekot said.

On Wednesday, she opened those doors to the Marquette University community. Partnering with the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, the Native American Students Association, Dining Services and the Center for Engagement and Inclusion, for a series of cooking demonstrations; sharing her love of food and culture.

“When you feed someone you're not just feeding their body, you're feeding their spirit and you should do so with love," Paemonekot said.

With love, she’s also educating people on the many culinary contributions of indigenous communities on the foods people eat every day.

"We're working with bison, we're working with various berries like strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, maple syrup. We've got corn, squash. We've got a corn soup going back there," Paemonekot said. "Those are foods that people eat every day and don't realize are indigenous."

Contributions that continue to feed bellies and souls year round.

"We should all spend more time than just one month out of the year to learn about someone's culture," Paemonekot said. "This is something we should do every day — bringing people together and accepting the differences in culture and society." Paemonekot's food is on the menu at a bistro at Chicago's Field Museum.

She also caters in Illinois and across Wisconsin.

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