They say that the key to big success is not just simple luck or hard work alone; it is a combination of the two. When opportunity knocks, one must be ready to dive in head first and see where the winds lead. Just ask Aspen chef and entrepreneur Mawa McQueen, owner of Mawa’s Kitchen.
They say that the key to big success is not just simple luck or hard work alone; it is a combination of the two. When opportunity knocks, one must be ready to dive in head first and see where the winds lead. Just ask Aspen chef and entrepreneur Mawa McQueen. “I was born in Africa, in Ivory Coast, which was a French colony. My family moved to France when I was younger, but I didn’t really connect with the culture there,” McQueen recalls. “I saw women on TV who looked more like me, and they were all African-American, not African-French. So I told my family I had a dream to go to America, and I thought, ‘I’ll be someone like Clair Huxtable.’ These women were my role models.” McQueen also told her family she wanted to meet the U.S. president someday. They thought she was, well—a little crazy.
“My family was not rich, and I didn’t grow up having a lot,” she says. “They didn’t always understand me or what I dreamed of doing someday.” When she was a bit older, McQueen decided that the first step toward fulfilling her dream of coming to the U.S. was to learn English. For this, she relocated to England, where she took up a nannying gig for a short time. The mother of the family she worked with was very accomplished, and McQueen noticed that she always watched “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on television. “One day she said to me, ‘This is one of the most powerful women in the USA,’” McQueen remembers. “I couldn’t believe that. But I made a point of watching it afterward and saw Oprah do so many brave and empowering things. I started learning that I really could do anything I wanted to do.”
Like magic, McQueen soon found herself the winner of a special lottery that allowed her to obtain an American green card. She filled out all the necessary paperwork and within a couple months she was on U.S. soil, working as a waitress in Kennebunkport, Maine. One day, her restaurant received a very important call: The President of the United States was on his way for a bite to eat. “I thought it was a joke, but within an hour the Secret Service were circling the place,” McQueen says. “Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever dreamed this could happen to me.” And just like that, McQueen got to meet the president after all. She served George H. W. Bush that day, proving everyone back home who had doubted her wrong.
After her first American summer in Kennebunkport, doors continued to open along her path and she soon found herself in the Rocky Mountain wonderland of Colorado. Nowadays, when McQueen describes her journey to becoming a respected chef and businesswoman in Aspen, it seems as though her life has been filled with one charmed experience after the next. But, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t worked extremely hard for her achievements.
As owner of Mawa’s Kitchen, her restaurant and catering service that also provides private chefs and in-flight dining, McQueen proudly runs the show and peels the potatoes. “It is definitely hard work, and sometimes even harder as a woman chef in the mountains,” she says. “Women here do not often receive enough credit for all that they do.” Still, McQueen appears to have a knack for inviting good fortune into her life. Charismatic, bubbly, optimistic and confident in her own abilities, she is never afraid to try something new or seize an opportunity as it comes. “I represent the American Dream today in this valley,” McQueen says. “Not only as a female but as a minority and immigrant.”
If You Go: You can find Mawa’s Kitchen in Aspen at 305 Aspen Airport Business Center Suite F with Mawa McQueen welcoming guests to join her for breakfast 8a.m. to 11a.m., and lunch, Monday thru Friday, from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in her newly renovated kitchen and dining room. Her menu selections incorporate a feast of healthy selections in a beautiful, relaxing atmosphere. Mawa’s menu has an amazing variety of breakfast dishes, salads, soups, sandwiches, and crepes inspired by Ms. McQueen’s African-French heritage.
In addition to her restaurant, Mawa’s Kitchen offers event catering, private chefs and in-flight catered meals for private aircraft. Her most fun offerings are her private cooking classes where Mawa offers hands-on culinary workshops designed for people of all cooking levels who would like to learn more while gathering with friends and family in her kitchen!
Learn more about McQueen’s story and Mawa’s Kitchen at www.MawasKitchen.com.
By Caitlyn Causey
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