Mawa McQueen is an Ivorian entrepreneur behind the only Black-owned restaurants in Aspen, Colorado. The culinary entrepreneur grew up in Ivory Coast, West Africa, and took up the art of cooking at an early age while taking care of her siblings.
“Taking charge of my brothers and sisters (the whole household). As the eldest sibling of 10 at the time, I oversaw cooking, cleaning, and making sure the house was in order and everyone had their needs met because my parents were working a lot,” she told Forbes.
Mawa McQueen, the Ivorian behind the only Black-owned restaurants in Aspen, Colorado
“In my culture, it was my duty to make sure laundry, the cleaning and especially meals were done and ready. There are two things that helped me, one was that I had to take charge and two if I did not know something it was up to me to find out the answers since my parents did not have time to educate me. I especially did not want to bug my parents because they were constantly busy, in my culture if you didn’t know something it was up to you to find the answers.”
Along the way, she picked culinary skills spanning three continents. She perfected her cooking skills at a culinary school in Paris. She also learned the cooking styles from her Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian neighbors while in France.
She subsequently moved to London to learn English while working as an au pair. However, her goal was to move to America. In 2002, she won a green card lottery in the US. She worked at White Barn Inn in the summer seasons and Little Nell in Aspen in the winter seasons.
In 2014, she launched a restaurant in Aspen as a side hustle and later focused on it full-time when the business took off. McQueen became famous in the city for fresh, house-made and locally-sourced cuisine.
Today, she is the proprietor and chef of two popular restaurants in Aspen, Colorado, Mawa’s Kitchen and The Crepe Shack.
According to McQueen, her restaurants have become favorite destinations because she incorporates a diverse list of ingredients into her dishes from her homeland her and her time spent in Paris.
“I also integrate Moroccan, Mediterranean, Caribbean & middle eastern ingredients because I grew up in a suburb of Paris where everyone would dine together as neighbors because we couldn’t afford to go out to a restaurant,” she said.
Besides her restaurant, she is also the owner of Mawa’s GrainFreeNola, a delicious gluten-free, protein-rich and vegan granola made with the highest quality organic nuts and seeds sweetened with Medjool dates, Forbes said.