Owner and chef of Mawa’s Kitchen and The Crêpe Shack Mawa McQueen
In February, Mawa McQueen, chef and owner of Mawa’s Kitchen and The Crêpe Shack, got the call that she’d been named as a semifinalist for a James Beard Award for Best Chef, Mountain region. “I tell you, I cried. I had a headache from crying so hard,” she says. The nomination, a recognition for her globally inspired cuisine, was long in coming. McQueen, who was trained as a chef in France, worked for years as a housekeeper, nanny and ultimately as a server at Relais & Châteaux outposts in London, Maine and Aspen before she started cheffing. Today, her eateries are the only Black-owned restaurants in the Roaring Fork Valley. “[The James Beard nomination] makes me think all this hard work paid off,” she says. “I cook from my heart, and I want to share my craft.”
McQueen’s cuisine defies categorization. She was born in the Ivory Coast and grew up in Paris, where she went to culinary school. “You can’t tell me to choose one type of cuisine,” she says. “It’s kind of a melting pot.” Her menu offers a healthy blend of French and Mediterranean cuisine, but more recently she’s embraced her roots and added an African flair. What it’s not? Soul food. “That’s not part of my culture.”
This high-energy entrepreneur isn’t resting on her gastronomic laurels. In January 2020, she launched a new snack brand, GrainFreeNola—a pandemic pivot that helped keep her restaurants open and staff employed. Available in five flavors as well as a new CBD-infused version called Hempnola, the granola is on shelves at Roxy’s Market in Aspen and at grainfreenola.com.