SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) -- One comment from former First Lady Barbara Bush completely altered a 19-year-old Chinese woman's life and eventually led her to create her own business in Sparks.
CaiE Foods in Sparks, Nevada
CaiE George worked for the U.S. State Department in 1985 in China and was assigned to translate for then Vice President George H.W. Bush during his visit to the southern part of the country.
CaiE says Barbara Bush said to her, "Well, Mrs., maybe you should go to see the world besides here."
CaiE cherishes this advice and credits it to her eventual trip the following year to New York City, where she attended Hunter College. This decision set in motion her eventual contributions to northern Nevada's local economy.
Python Spring rolls, pot stickers, and wantons are a few of the products made inside CaiE Foods at 1802 Brierley Way in Sparks. They're made as close as possible to what CaiE's grandmother made when she was young girl in China. Her grandmother lived with her family, so they were especially close.
"I really miss her food; that's how it started," CaiE said. "You miss it. I traveled the world; wherever I go I still have that craving for grandma's food. That's how it started."
In the early 1970s there were not a lot of restaurants in China because the country was going through a cultural revolution. Most food was only made in homes during CaiE's formative years. Today the same products that took long periods of time to make by hand at home are now mass-produced, all while maintaining nearly the same look and homemade taste, CaiE says.
Her products are sold in several restaurants and casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, and other parts of the state.
CaiE products are mass-produced just north of I-80 about 2000 feet west of the Vista Boulevard overpass. A worker inside makes the pot-sticker dough from scratch. The only four ingredients are all-purpose flour, water, and oil, and salt.
They're mixed in a large industrial-sized bowl until it clumps up into uneven shapes. A large machine rolls the uneven dough mass into one long thick sheet and then it's taken to another room and placed into a second machine. It's pressed three times until the dough is the perfect thinness to make a pot sticker.
A machine cuts flat pieces of dough, places the chicken-filling mixture in the middle, and gently folds the dough until it cradles the flavorful filling. CaiE machine can make 7,200 pieces in one hour.
"Everything is natural. No artificial coloring. No preservatives. No artificial flavors," CaiE said.
The pot-stickers are then steam-pasteurized for five minutes and flash-frozen in a 40-below freezer in preparation for their journey to hungry customers. They are fried or steamed for the final step before they're eaten.
One final destination is Greater Nevada Field in downtown Reno. Hungry customers enjoy them during Aces ball games.
"It's a great product. It's got a great shelf life on it. It tastes great and we do really good in sales on it," says the Executive Chef at Greater Nevada Field, Paul Valenzuela.
Paul says he would like to add more of CaiE's food products next season.
Across the room from this food production other workers are making Python Spring Rolls. Bill Castro is the plant manager. He says the meat looks like fish but tastes like chicken.
"The meat is actually imported from Vietnam and it's very pricey. It's almost $20 a pound," Bill said.
It's mixed with vegetables, cabbage, sprouts, and carrots. Then it's rolled by hand and sealed with a corn starch and water mixture. CaiE says she does not add MSG to her food products.
"I want everybody to eat healthy. One thing is you need a healthy community. You need a healthy people," said CaiE.
She sells her food in many Costco locations across the western portion of the United States where there are significant Asian populations. The Costco Stores in Sparks and Reno do not carry her line of foods.
CaiE is in talks to sell her products in Whole Food stores and she says she traveled to Walmart's headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas to explore the possibilities with the giant grocery store chain.
CaiE Foods is actually CaiE's second business. She had 3,500 employees in China producing shipping containers. CaiE says this company earned $103,000,000 during its most profitable year, but she stepped away because of a fallout with the Chinese Government.
CaiE says she took the communist country to arbitration court in Switzerland to get her money back and won, but has yet to see the money she earned.
You can purchase frozen entrees made at CaiE Foods at the outlet located at 1802 Brierley Way in Sparks Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You can also find CaiE Food products on Amazon.com.