NATIVE AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH SPOTLIGHTS
In Chicago, every neighborhood is home to diverse communities representing cultures from around the globe. This month, we’re honoring Native American Heritage Month by featuring some of the individuals sharing and celebrating Indigenous culture in Chicago.
Meet a chef showcasing Indigenous recipes and ingredients, a curator of a new exhibit on Native voices, an artist taking a contemporary look at traditional methods, and more. These are tales you can only find in Chicago.
Jessica is the Chef and Owner of Ketapanen Kitchen, an Indigenous catering company based in Chicago. She is a citizen of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin.
What are your early memories of food and cooking? We grew up in Chicago’s American Indian community. When you grow up in a communal setting, food is a very big part of everything we do. So anytime we would get together for events or ceremonies, the first place I always went was to the kitchen to help out. So it’s always been instilled in me as far as I can remember, and I was just doing it, just feeding my family.
What inspired the name of your catering business? I am an enrolled member of the Menominee Indian tribe of Wisconsin. And in our language, Ketapanen is an expression of love. Growing up, my mom always taught me that when you’re cooking, you cook with love because you’re not just nourishing bodies, you’re nourishing souls. So everything you do is with love.
What is the mission of Ketapanen Kitchen? It’s a way to educate people about Indigenous foods and share my culture with others. And I think that got me more excited to start sourcing my ingredients through Native vendors and bringing not only education and awareness, but bringing these dishes back to our community.
I get to open doors for others to come behind me and leave their mark in the culinary industry. And it’s daunting at the same time. I’m here by myself. There’s a lot of pressure behind that, but I’ve done an amazing job so far. And I think I’ve opened some doors and I think I’ve created a visibility and I’m pretty proud of myself for that. Learn more