Photo Credit: Mawa's Kitchen| Facebook
Inside Mawa's Kitchen: Aspen, Colorado's Only Black-Owned Restaurant
To successfully run Aspen’s only Black-owned restaurant for the last twelve years is a major accomplishment, but Mawa’s Kitchen owner Mawa McQueen has done that and more.
Born in the Ivory Coast, she spent most of her years living in France. She always had a passion for cooking and creating in the kitchen, but there was also this longing in the back of her mind to one day live in the United States.
“I saw a romantic scene on the soap opera ‘The Young and The Restless’ that was in Aspen, and it made me want to move there one day,” Mawa McQueen told Travel Noire. “That was where Aspen started for me.”
It would take her a few more years to actually get there, though— nearly ten more years.
After finally making the leap to the US, she found a job working in hospitality at a château in Maine.
“After a successful winter season, my boss asked me if there was anywhere else in the country that I wanted to go. I said, yes, Aspen! So that’s how I got here.”
She was able to transfer to her job’s sister property in Aspen, where she worked for nearly ten years. As fate would have it, she was introduced to a very wealthy woman who needed her help during a holiday dinner. When Mawa arrived at the woman’s home to help, she realized nothing was prepared. So, she stepped in.
That simple gesture allowed Mawa to show off her culinary talents, which thoroughly impressed the woman. So much so, she asked Mawa why she wasn’t in a restaurant.
“I actually made more money serving than I would in the kitchen. But I was very impressed with this particular woman. She was the first woman to manage Morgan and Stanley, so I valued her opinion.”
Mawa would then begin her private chef services, starting with the same woman by cooking meals for her private jet. Word spread fast about the meals Mawa prepared, so, she made the decision to open a full restaurant.
Mawa’s Kitchen opened nearly twelve years ago, and since then the restaurant has become a popular staple in Aspen. On top of that, it’s the area’s only Black-owned restaurant, and honestly the only true Black-owned business in general.
“We started as a breakfast and lunch place, and evolved to a full restaurant. I still do the private catering, too.”
Mawa’s Kitchen serves up dishes inspired by the world. From a Thai noodle salad to handmade Middle Eastern dips, it’s one of the most popular spots in the area. It has seen tons of celebs, and Mawa even revealed that she was listed as one of the top Aspen restaurants by a super exclusive Asian travel guide. On top of all of that, her prices are very reasonable.
In addition to the two main businesses, she has also entered the granola business— making all of her blends in-house and 100% organic.
“When COVID hit, my granola was flying off the shelves. It is really a labor of love, and this is the only handmade brand in all of Aspen. I really enjoy making it. It’s my therapy.”
Mawa will soon open a second location of her restaurant in downtown Aspen, and she is also preparing to open a factory to make her granola more efficiently.
You can check out more from Mawa’s Kitchen here. Mawa’s is located at: 305 Aspen Airport Business Center F in Aspen.