Keenwah, CO comes from the mind of Elizabeth McDermott, a practicing lawyer now juggling her nascent business with her legal position in Colorado Springs -- talk about multi-tasking. After college in upstate New York and a magazine job in the city, McDermott decided to return to her native state to earn a law degree from the University of Denver. During law school, she quickly realized that she had an entrepreneurial streak that couldn't be appeased just by working for a big firm. Enter quinoa.
McDermott says she ultimately narrowed down her ideas for a new business after noticing a lack of variety in delicious and healthy food at Colorado's quick service restaurants, along with a push from her vegetarian fiancé, that led her to the world of food service. Despite protestations from friends and family that she was crazy for entering such a high-risk industry, McDermott bought an old Hostess delivery van (still full of Twinkies, she says) in November last year. She wasted no time in getting off the ground: the truck was fully outfitted in June on a Friday, and Keenwah, CO was serving food the next Tuesday.
This kind of speed is indicative of McDermott's passion not only for her own business and healthy eating, but also a desire to educate and attract new customers to the quinoa calling. "My parent's couldn't pronounce quinoa for the first six months," McDermott says. "So that was kind of the tip off that we needed to help people."
Step one in approachability: the phonetic name, a handy pronunciation guide for the quinoa uninitiated (although McDermott says she still gets a few head-scratching customers). The second step, McDermott says, was creating a menu that appealed to a wide range of people, from those health-foodies who already know and love quinoa to others who still might need some coaxing. For that, McDermott brought in managing chef Sheila Sackett, who came from a background in natural and holistic cooking. They worked together to make their dishes desirable to a wide range of palates, including those who may have had a previous traumatic quinoa encounter.Read on to learn more about McDermott's quinoa revolution.