It’s hard to capture all of the things that Kathy Papineau does for the community in one blog post. The best way to describe Kathy Papineau is that she puts her community before herself. She runs three businesses that all work together: MKE Kitchen, Localicious and Soup in a Jar. On top of all that, she is a huge advocate for the local food movement in Milwaukee and a role model for composting and eating local.
Kathy first became interested in food at a young age. She grew up in Manitowoc, WI with 5 siblings, an unhealthy father, and a mother that didn’t have much time to cook. Kathy’s childhood fueled her motivation to eat healthy and learn to cook by watching cooking shows on TV and reading magazines like Home & Garden and Good Housekeeping. Years later as a stay-at-home mom, Papineau started her catering company Localicious around 2007. She started small in her home kitchen, but the business kept growing until 2012, when she opened MKE Kitchen, her commercial kitchen in Riverwest. Soup in a Jar is her food truck you may see around town that she uses to sell her homemade soup and meet new customers. Naturally, Kathy thought of others before herself. “If I was going to build a kitchen for my business, I thought I should build a kitchen big enough so that other people could build their businesses too,” she explained.
But that’s not all the kitchen does, not even close. Kathy teaches cooking classes to kids, and the classes incorporate the importance of composting and the benefits of a local market. “Schools need to find room in their curriculum to cover stuff like that,” she says. At the same time, the kitchen acts as a meeting place for local food groups such as volunteers from the Urban Ecology Center advocating for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. Papineau has created a welcoming place for ideas to spread and for the local food community to grow.
Kathy moves fast and doesn’t sit still for very long which means she has a million ideas for the future. She wants to teach a course about starting your own business to teach people about all the business technicalities they don’t consider at first. Whether she planned it or not, Kathy has become a guide for the new entrepreneurs that rent from her and she’s willing to share her experience. One of those new entrepreneurs, Collin Wallace of Chillwaukee, talked about how helpful Kathy had been to his new business. “She’s very accommodating and gives us the space we need, and puts us in touch with people and news stations,” he said.
With every new idea, Kathy stays true to her core goal: “I want people to eat healthier. I want them to understand the relationship between their food, their health and the environment. That’s what I want.”