Q&A with Jane Lee, owner, Jadon Foods

Jane Lee’s passion these days is in the kitchen.

During the downturn, Lee ditched her career as a broker in residential and commercial mortgages in New York and ended up in Las Vegas, where in 2008 she started Jadon Foods, a manufacturer of cookies, cakes and other baked treats that cater to those with diabetes or food allergies.

Lee moved to Las Vegas to care for her father, who had Parkinson’s disease and diabetes and needed to control his diet. Her mother was a diabetic as well, and when Lee started taking care of them, she got a chance to test recipes she would use later in business.

“We made a deal,” Lee said. “Instead of him cheating all the time, if he just cheated occasionally, I would make him something that tasted like he remembered or that satisfied him.”

Lee said of her dad who died in 2009: “He became our number one taste-tester and number one fan. That’s how it all came together.”

Jadon Foods wholesales its products and has a retail store at 4343 N. Rancho Drive. It has 10 employees.

So this was about helping people with diabetes?

It may have started with his diabetes, but that’s not our focal point. Our focal point is gluten-free. Everything we do is gluten-free. Unlike the other gluten-free bakeries or manufacturers that are available, we can address multiple dietary concerns and adjust our recipes for our customers. That allows us to work with dieticians and nutritionists, and it is very appealing for customers who have to be gluten-free but may be a diabetic on top of that or they need to be dairy-free or soy-free, too. Whatever it is, we can work on some of those dietary challenges.

Is it difficult to make those products tasty?

We are always tweaking recipes. Gluten-free is not for everybody. You’re always going to have that customer that’s going to want it to taste a certain way, and maybe I can’t provide that flavor profile they’re looking for. Those who need to eat gluten-free because they think it’s healthier or they are genetically predisposed to neurological ailments, for those customers, they consider us every bit a rock star as the other pastry chefs in town.

But it’s rewarding?

There’s nothing more satisfying when you know you’re making a difference with somebody. I had a boy who took a bite of a chocolate chip cookie, and he burst into tears. I thought, “Oh no. What happened? Is everything OK?” He said, “Mommy, this is how I remember cookies tasting when I could have your chocolate chip cookies.”

What do you do when you’re not in the kitchen?

I like to golf and go for walks. I like to try different restaurants. I like to spend time with family. I like to go to The Smith Center. I enjoy Broadway shows, classical music and jazz.

How often do you go to restaurants?

I go out about once a week. I enjoy seeing the talents of other chefs and trying what they make and getting inspiration from it.

What are your favorite restaurants in town?

It depends on the kind of food you’re eating. I don’t have one favorite. I have been trying some of the different pizza places. Up until recently, I haven’t been able to find something that mimics the experience I had in New York. If I have friends that come in, especially my friends from the Midwest that don’t have access to good Asian cuisine — if they want dim sum, I send them over to Ping Pang Pong (at the Gold Coast). If they want hand-pulled noodles, I will refer them to Beijing Noodle No. 9 (in Caesars Palace).

What else do you do in your spare time?

I read quite a bit. I’m a perpetual student. I’m always interested in learning. I just finished a book by Patrick Lencioni, author of “The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything.” It’s a book about business culture. It’s a way to fuel my knowledge from other people’s experiences. I like to read stories about other companies and the challenges they face and how they chose to overcome those.

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