Posoh, my name is Jessica Pamonicutt. I am the owner of and Executive Chef at Ketapanen Kitchen. We are Chicago's First Native American Catering Co & Pop-Up Kitchen. I am also Chicagos First Native American Executive Chef.
I grew up up in Chicago, 250 miles away from my home, my reservation, my family and my culture. When you grow up disconnected in such a way, I feel like you have to work harder to maintain your cultural identity. My family spent a lot of time connecting with other Natives at the American Indian Center of Chicago. I would often find myself in the kitchen helping. My mother instilled in me the importance of cooking for my family and community. She taught me that food brings people together. It connects people. She taught me that food not only nourishes our bodies, but our spirits. So when I cook, I should do so with good feelings in my heart and I should put good feelings and prayers into my food. Cooking was a way for me to connect with my culture and my community. It was something that I enjoyed and something that I did well. So well, in fact, that I could command a kitchen at 12 years old. It seemed only natural that it would be that career path that I chose.
Cooking wasn’t enough. I wanted to do something that mattered — something that benefitted my community and Native people as a whole. I realized that I was in the perfect place to do something that mattered. I live in a cultural mecca, a place where you can find any ethnic cuisine your heart desired. Except one: Indigenous foods. There was a big niche in the culinary industry in Chicago that needed filling. As I developed my business concept, I also realized not only was there no representation in the culinary scene in Chicago, but also a lack of access to Indigenous foods. Contributing to that void was the utter lack of knowledge when it came to Indigenous foods. I decided then that I was not only going to bring Indigenous cuisine to the forefront of Chicago’s culinary scene, but I was also going to bring education, resources and visibility with it. And so my passion began…
I am currently working with Pilot Light & The Field Museum to create educational pieces on Native Foods. Through this work, my Seed to Feed Initiative was born. This goal of our Initiative is two fold: Education & Community. Under the Education section, I will bring together & create educational resources that center on Native Foods. And under the Community section, I'll work to help bridge that divide that makes access to traditional foods difficult for those of us in the Chicagoland area, who live away from our homelands. This program is still being developed and defined, and I'm sure it'll grow into something beautiful & sustainable.
In small numbers we create ripples, in large numbers we create waves. As a community we should be working together to restore and protect Indigenous food systems. I would love to see a food sovereignty program developed in Chicago. Teaching community members how to identify, harvest, grow and cook Indigenous foods is a great way to restore our food systems. We currently have three small garden spaces in the Chicagoland area, but that is not enough. In an ideal world, I would love to see the community secure land for planting and growing. A community owned and operated farm/garden space where we could come together to grow and feed the community would be a dream come true. And who knows, it might be possible.
So any donations to this campaign will assist with developmental of educational resources, as well as helping create access to traditional seeds & foods for our community. If enough funds are raised, we might even be able to work towards a large community farm/garden!