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Meet the Native Chef Introducing Chicagoans to Indigenous Cuisine

Meet the Native Chef Introducing Chicagoans to Indigenous Cuisine

Sidney Madden Posted on October 19 | Updated on October 20


Chef Jessica Walks First (Courtesy of Ketapanen Kitchen)

Jessica Walks First has spent the last several years feeding Chicagoans indigenous foods through her catering company, Ketapanen Kitchen.


In addition to cooking for the Bears and Goodman Theater, Walks First — a member of the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin — is also an educator and activist.


She has created health-conscious Native dishes, helped teach hunters how to butcher buffalo, and started a fundraiser for more Native food education.


With Illinois students required to learn about Native history year-round starting next school year, Walks First said she never thought she’d see that type of legislation in her life.


“I want [students] to understand our contributions to the food waste system and how much of our foods are present in their everyday lives,” she said.


Ketapanen Kitchen dishes (Courtesy of Ketapanen Kitchen)

What Are Some Menu Items?

  • Tamales, including a Chipotle–style wild turkey in blueberry masa or a corn-bean-squash variety in cranberry masa

  • Bison brisket

  • Roasted beet and pickled pear salad

  • Elderflower mousse

  • Bison and hull corn soup

Where You Can Get a Bite

Available via the Dwell Social app next month, Walks First will offer smaller meal packages — including a “decolonized Thanksgiving dinner” — that come frozen or refrigerated. Clarification: Chef Jessica Walks First helped teach hunters how to butcher the buffalo. Thursday's newsletter misstated what she taught them.



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