Article by Jeanne Souldern, Illustration by Kathryn Camp
The Summer 2022 Issue of Mountain Parent Magazine highlights some “staycation” options for families in the Roaring Fork Valley area of Colorado. The article highlights six family-owned businesses that allow you to vacation like a local and play like a tourist right here, close to home.
When You Make Plans To Dine With A James Beard-Nominated Chef, You Might Expect A High-Brow Vibe. Not So With Mawa McQueen.
This spring, Mawa McQueen was named a semifinalist for the 2022 James Beard Award for Best Chef: Mountain. To be named on the Beard list is the pinnacle achievement in culinary art, an affirmation for McQueen of her professional and personal journey. “You feel like you did something right, and it validates you, even though you know that you do something right every day. This is the cherry on the top that nobody can deny you,” she said, adding, in the lilt of her West African accent, “it was awesome! It was amazing!”
She saw the potential for a “shack” that offered “typical mountain town food” that you might find anywhere in Europe. Having lived in France, McQueen immediately thought of crepes “because it’s a good snack, breakfast, lunch or dinner and it’s a fun thing that you can eat on the go.” The concept is a perfect fit at the Snowmass Base Village. She is delighted to be a part of the Base Village community, with its welcoming and playful vibes. As she said, “Snowmass is for families. It’s home with a small-town feel. I truly love being here-this is my town!”
How is it, being a Black business owner in a predominantly white community? The Beard recognition helps. “It’s been a triumph and a validation. It’s not like a junk place on the corner that people think I just sell fried chicken or something.”
McQueen was born in West Africa’s Ivory Coast and later moved with her family of 11 children to Paris. She describes herself as “not very academic” but saw attending culinary school as a promising option. She is the first to admit that a culinary career was never a childhood dream. She came to cooking because “I’m good at it and only later on in my life did it become a passion.”
McQueen’s philosophy – putting your best self into food. She explained, “It’s an honor to serve people the food you’ve put your heart and soul into. Food is given and received with love.”
McQueen values nutritious, locally-sourced ingredients and makes everything in-house. They start with three crepe batters made with Bob’s Red Mill organic flours – garbanzo, gluten-free, and vegan buckwheat -whole milk, and free-range eggs. All crepes are made to order with about forty offerings, half sweet and half savory. McQueen explained, “The food is very simple – it’s a true Parisian crepe with some twists.”
All-natural organic food colorings can be added to the crepe batter to add a little color to your day, or you can treat your taste buds by adding special flavorings. Most ingredients are organic, with crepe prices starting at about $10 each. There is also a selection of breakfast pastries, coffee drinks, and other beverages. Sit outside on the plaza with views of Snowmass Ski Area.
Mawa continues to work daily in the kitchen, while also doing the work of developing the business. Earning skills as a chef takes perseverance. “So to keep that knowledge, you need to keep cooking.”
McQueen plans to open more creperies with Crepe Shack becoming a brand because, as she sees it, “every mountain town should have one.”
Relishing the fruits of her labor, she took a deep breath, smiles and said, “When I look at myself – from where I started to where I am – that’s wonderful.”