By Alison Margo
Since arriving on the Aspen culinary scene in 2002, Mawa McQueen has become a force to be reckoned with. Boundless energy and passion seem to emanate from her physically, through her broad smile, booming voice, can-do attitude, and especially her food. That hyperdrive is also how she manages to run three restaurants (Mawa’s Kitchen in the Aspen Airport Business Center and The Crêpe Shack, with locations in Snowmass Base Village and downtown Aspen), a catering company, and the occasional cooking class.
Originally from the Ivory Coast, McQueen was raised in Paris, and some days she still can’t believe she and her husband, Daniel, call this remote resort town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains home. “Even after living here for almost 20 years, I only have to walk out my front door to appreciate Aspen’s incredible beauty,” she says. McQueen also enjoys the many world-renowned restaurants in the area. As a chef, she has high standards but loves taking a seat as a restaurant patron. “Everyone knows I’m pretty picky,” she laughs. “I’m also a creature of habit, so they all know what I want as soon as I walk in the door.”
“I only have to walk out my front door to appreciate Aspen’s incredible beauty.” —Mawa McQueen
HIGH COUNTRY FLAVOR
As a chef with African and French influences, McQueen escapes to the sushi bar at Matsuhisa (303 E. Main St., 970.544.6628) for Chef Nobu’s world-famous Japanese cuisine. She loves the king crab tempura (“It’s to die for,” she says) washed down with a lychee martini, made just the way she likes it (with at least six lychees). On a rare day off, she’ll head over to Meat & Cheese (319 E. Hopkins Ave., 970.710.7120) for a picnic spread of fresh bread, house-made charcuterie, and “the best assortment of cheeses in town.” Her Parisian roots make her a stickler for good French cuisine, and she claims that Cache Cache (205 S. Mill St., 970.925.3835) is the real deal. “The foie gras and frisée salad are my go-to,” she says.
FUN OVER FITNESS
McQueen loves to get outside whenever she can to appreciate the pristine views that surround her. “I walk a lot, but I don’t need to get extreme about it,” she says. “I love walking along the Rio Grande Trail year-round or cross-country skiing at the Aspen Cross Country Center (39551 W. Hwy. 82, 970.925.2145).” When she wants to get her heart rate up, she’ll venture over to Tiehack at Buttermilk for some snowshoeing, but that’s as far as her winter sports repertoire goes. Most days you can find her warming up at The Crêpe Shack (61 Wood Rd., Snowmass Village, 970.452.2137) with her signature hot chocolate made the French way: No powder packets or lukewarm water—her recipe calls for melting actual chocolate into warm milk.
LIVE LIKE A QUEEN
If there’s one thing Aspen’s known for, it’s luxury, and if there’s one thing most locals know, it’s how to find luxury without having to pay exorbitant prices. That’s especially true when it comes to shopping. “A little-known secret is Aspen has some of the best consignment shops around, especially the Aspen Thrift Shop (422 E. Hopkins Ave., 970.925.3121),” McQueen says. “You can find designer clothes, bags, and shoes. Some have never been worn and still have the tags on them, so you can do your happy dance when you know how much you scored!”