By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 31, 2014 at 9:10 AM

Kathy Papineau has dedicated her life to the earth, community, economy and the individual.

"I believe anyone can eat healthy," she says. "And every day I work towards that."

Last fall, Papineau opened a commercial kitchen in Riverwest, called MkeKitchen, at 531 E. Keefe Ave.

Papineau, who has been catering for about a decade, says it took her two years to find the perfect location for her business.

The 1,100-square foot space is the first kitchen in the city constructed to serve multiple businesses and simultaneously address social, food-related issues.

MkeKitchen is rented by numerous local food businesses, including Mamacita's Tamales, Ball & Biscuit catering, AfroFusion Cuisine, Link Up Foodie and more.

The business owners pay a monthly fee based on how many hours a week they use the kitchen. The space is large enough to accommodate more than one group at a time.

"I try to be as flexible as I can because I rented space before and I understand both sides," says Papineau. "It’s important to me that I can offer my kitchen space at an affordable rate so other entrepreneurs can participate in the local economy."

Papineau also uses her kitchen space to prepare food for her catering business, MkeLocalicious.

The kitchen features two 12-foot hoods, six-burner stove, double bank convection oven, 20-gallon soup kettle, 36-foot charbroiler, four hand washing sinks, two prep sinks, a four-compartment sink, dishwasher and the "Big Mamoo" – as Papineau calls it – which is a 40-gallon tilt braising pan.

"Its capabilities include boiling, braising, stir frying, pan frying and reheating," she says.

There is also refrigeration, freezer and dry storage space available.

Papineau also believes strongly in composting her waste and thanks to a composting site just a few blocks away she is able to easily dispose of produce and vegetable scraps.

For her catering business, Papineau uses many recyclable serving pieces, including mason jars for breakfast frittatas, smoothies and soups. She often brings a bike powered blender to events.

Papineau buys most of her ingredients locally from Riverwest Farmers Market, Fondy Farmers Market, Alice's Garden, LOFTL Farm, The Outpost and We Grow Greens.

Reaching out to the community is a large part of Papineau’s mission. She frequently hosts cooking classes to teach people of all ages – including children – how to make healthy food.

Every month, Papineau makes a meal for All People’s Church Soup Kitchen. Recently, she oversaw a troupe of Brownies in making lunches for the Ronald McDonald House, hosted the cooking crew for the Riverwest 24 bike ride and taught a cooking class at Curative Care Network for people with cognitive and physical challenges.

"Some of the people had very severe challenges, and at first I questioned what I could do with them," she says. "We made a chocolate mousse by mashing up avocado, cocoa powder and maple syrup and smoothies and rolled dates in cocoa powder. We had a great time."

Last winter, Papineau partnered with We Grow Greens, a non-profit run by Charlie Uihlein, allowing students to come into the kitchen to learn about cooking, financial literacy and team building.

During one session, Papineau made a deal with the kids that she would come up with a recipe using whatever they grew, and later created a pate of walnuts, micro-green arugula, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.

"A jarful of ‘yum,’ they say," Papineau says.

Papineau learned to cook as a child growing up in a family with six children in Manitowoc. During the holidays, her parents would host as many as 65 people, and Papineau helped her mother so she wouldn’t become overwhelmed.

"I learned how to cook, and I learned how to cook food that was good for people," she says.

Although she wanted to open a restaurant, Papineau decided to study nursing at Marquette. She realized the field wasn’t quite right for her and she went into business instead.

Papineau went on to hold a variety of different jobs and has three children, now teenagers. She lived with her children in Shorewood for many years, but recently moved to Riverwest.

"I love it here. It’s close to everything," she says.

Papineau also has a bright yellow food truck, called Soup In A Jar, that occasionally hits the streets.

"Right now, it’s basically storage on wheels for my other business," she says.

Papineau has many pots on the stove, literally and figuratively, but she is enjoying the journey and still has big dreams for the future.

"This is a hard business: physically, creatively, spiritually. But it’s so rewarding," she says. "I believe if you have the opportunity to take risks you should do it."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.