This week, television station Aspen 82, a media partner of the Aspen Daily News, has been profiling local women in business on its mountaintop morning show. People lament that ski-town ratios of men to women heavily stack in favor of guys, but this is a dated concept, especially in Aspen. (Fact: The town is 48.1 percent female, according to the 2018 census estimate.)
And guys, take note here: This valley is full of exceptional women. While Aspen 82 featured a couple dozen who are leaving marks in the business world, there are enough ladies doing awesome things to provide interviews for a year.
About a dozen of the same women gathered at Ellina for a dinner on Wednesday. Ellina is now owned by Jill Carnevale. She started as an expediter and then became the restaurant’s sommelier for eight years, curating a 1,200-label wine program. When an opportunity to purchase the restaurant popped up, she pounced. Combining her Wall Street background with business grit, less than a year into her ownership the restaurant is thriving.
Carnevale still runs the restaurant’s wine program, and during dinner she thoughtfully poured a red Italian blend from a female winemaker. She acknowledged other women in the Aspen food-and-beverage community who have inspired her, including Mawa McQueen, who also sat at the table.
McQueen started at The Little Nell in 2002 before stepping out on her own. Today, she owns a mini restaurant empire comprised of Market Street Kitchen in Basalt, Mawa’s Kitchen at the Airport Business Center and The Crepe Shack, which debuted in Snowmass Base Village this winter.
But what makes McQueen unique among other female restaurant owners is that she’s also the chef. Besides running the business, she executes on the culinary side; McQueen wields sharp knives and sharp business acumen. And don’t think that she’s done yet – the community should eagerly await her next moves.
Not everyone at the table worked in food and beverage. There were representatives from architecture, arts, hospitality, design, wellness and media. The conversation was purposeful, poignant and illuminating.
People may ask why women still need to band together or be called out as pioneers in their fields. Let’s reiterate an above statement, but perhaps a glazed-over point: McQueen is not just the restaurant owner; she’s also the chef. Can anyone name another female executive chef in the Aspen-Snowmass area? (If so, please let me know.)
Even in our enlightened town of Aspen, there are glass ceilings women are continually breaking, from food and beverage to ski company executives. As noted before, this valley is full of inspiring females. Here’s to those who have created a legacy, along with those who will.
Christine Benedetti writes about food here every other week. Mostly the plant kind. She’s editor-in-chief of Aspen magazine, but you can reach her @cabenedetti.