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  • Writer's pictureKara Marselle

Native Executive Chef Jessica Pamonicutt Bio

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Posoh (Hello)!

My name is Jessica Pamonicutt. My Indian Name is Oneyaw Neskehsak (Bright Eyes). I am the Executive Chef & Owner of Ketapanen Kitchen. We are Chicago’s first and only Native American Pop-Up Kitchen & Catering Company. We are in the process of launching Chicago’s first Native American Food Truck. I am a classically trained Chef, trained at Le Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts. My husband Tony Garcia along with my teacher & mentor Chef John Abels are partners in Ketapanen Kitchen.

I am an enrolled member of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. I was born on the reservation and raised in Chicago, where I still reside. I am a mother of two: Michael (27) and Jaxx Geronimo (6) and grandmother of two: Marcus Meshan (4) and DaLin Maekhonet (1).

Raised in a communal setting, I learned to command a kitchen at a young age. As a young girl, at any gathering, I would often run to the kitchen to help out. My mother, Linda, started teaching me to cook when I was very young. My love of cooking came from her. She took such joy in feeding others. I was taught that food is the centerpiece of life: whether you are gathered around the supper table at night, when you gather as a family or as a community, from celebrations to ceremonies, even in times of loss, there is food. When we would attend community events, the first place I went was to the kitchen. Feeding people is one way we care for our loved ones and communities. Food brings people together. My Mother taught me that food not only feeds our bodies, but it nourishes our souls. So when I cook, I do so with Love. I put prayers, good thoughts, and good feelings into every dish I prepare. It was from these teachings and philosophies that Ketapanen Kitchen was born. Ketapanen is an expression of Love in the Menominee language. So it seemed fitting to use it as the name of my kitchen. “Ketapanen Kitchen: Where Food Is Love…”

It is my Vision and Mission to bring Indigenous Cuisine to the forefront of Chicago’s culinary scene. My menu will offer traditional Indigenous dishes, modern Indigenous dishes, and familiar dishes featuring Indigenous ingredients. Many people have no idea what Native American/Indigenous food is. They don’t realize how many of the foods in our current food chain are contributions from the Indigenous people of these lands. My goal is not only to serve amazing food but also to educate people about those contributions. Another part of my vision and mission is to serve healthy food. With Heart Disease and Diabetes being so prominent among Native people, I wanted my menu offerings to be health-conscious. I use organic and GMO-free fruits, vegetables, herbs, and dairy, as well free-range and grass-fed meats. I source my ingredients from other Native or Tribal owned businesses and foragers when possible as well as from local farmers and farmers' markets. My Pop-Up Kitchen and Food Truck are the realizations of a dream for me. In an industry that has been predominantly male-led, I am currently the only Native American Woman Executive Chef in the Midwest and 1 of 7 across the country. I hope that my hard work and contributions will open the door for other Native American Women to join me in the Industry.

Filming her interview with Channel 7 WLS Chicago 11.23.2021
Executive Chef Jessica Pamonicutt, Menominee

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