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Butel, Jane (1938-) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Butel, Jane (1938-)
Fuller Form: Jane Anne Franz Butel


Historical Note:

Born in 1938, Jane Anne Franz Butel would grow up to be known as the mother of Tex-Mex, being credited with bringing the regional culinary style into popular demand. Graduating from Soldier Rural High School as Valedictorian put Butel on the path to success. She enrolled at Kansas State University with a double major in Home Economics and Journalism with a four-year scholarship from Sears Roebuck for all of her tuition.

In 1958 Butel married Donald Allen Butel and by the next year had graduated K-State and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico where she began her expansive career. By 1961 Butel was already making a name for herself in southwest cuisine. She was promoted to Head of the Department of Home Service, won seven national awards from programming and overall achievement and been elected president of New Mexico Home Economics Association and Chairman of the Women’s Committee of Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce. She also had a weekly television news segment from 1967-1969 as well as appearing frequently as a guest on several radio programs. In 1968, Butel self-published her second cookbook, Favorite Mexican Foods.

From 1969-1973, Butel was employed by Consolidated Edison of New York as the Director of Consumer Affairs where she developed 15 programs and decentralized the staff to eight boroughs. In 1971, Butel was appointed to develop the world’s first energy conservation program. It was successful and was later copied by 65 other utility companies. Butel’s radio and television success continued as she hosted a weekly radio program, “All About Energy,” in New York City. In 1973 she was hired by General Electric to head their Consumers Institute with responsibility for consumer education worldwide. She also had a national radio consumer show which distributed to 431 radio stations nationwide. Leaving GE, Butel was hired by American Express in 1976 to be their first female Corporate Vice President of Consumer Affairs and Marketing, a position she kept until 1978. After resigning from American Express, Butel incorporated Pecos River Spice Co (later known as Pecos Valley Spice Co.) and Jane Butel Associates (JBA).

Pecos Valley Spice Co. Launched its first product line in September 1979 at a Spice Sampler trade show in which Butel had the first woman-owned company. Also in 1979, Jane Butel’s Tex-Mex cookbook was published and was met with immediate success, staying in print until 2008. This publication was credited with starting the rise in popularity Southwestern cooking that came in the 1980s. Published a year later, Chili Madness also became a best seller and has sold nearly a million copies to date. This sparked a rapid expansion of the Pecos Valley product line and for Bloomingdales to order the product line to be hosted in stores. Unfortunately, Butel faced business difficulties from 1983 to 1991 citing sales of shares, poor funding and the hiring of an incapable managing partner as the cause. Ultimately, Pecos Valley Spice Co. switched to a mail order direct business, where the company is still operating.

During this time, Butel published Tacos, Tortillas and Tostadas, The Best of Mexican Cooing and Woman’s Day Book of New Mexican Cooking. In July of 1983, Butel developed the concept of a week-long cooking school which she then operated as sold-out sessions from 10 years in Santa Fe, New Mexico. As a new corporate venture, Butel opened a New Mexican/Southwestern upscale restaurant in New York City’s Upper East Side called Pecos River Café. The café was quite successful until personal and managerial problems led to its closing in 1990. February of 1993 found Butel building the first hotel-based cooking school, naming it Hotel Albuquerque. From 1993 to 2006 Butel worked to centralize and streamline both Pecos Valley Spice Co. and her cooking schools, opening another hotel called the Andaluz and redesigning the Pecos Valley line and packaging. Throughout this time Butel published five other cookbooks to add to her collection, these include Fiestas for Four Seasons, Jane Butel’s Quick & Easy Southwestern Cookbook, and Real Women Eat Chiles as well as a revised edition of her previous book, Hotter than Hell.

From January of 2010 to present, Butel has been developing proposals to sell her combined business in a Culinary Institute concept, but it is still a work in progress. Currently, Jane Butel is still conducting both the cooking classes and operating the spice business. She also has the intention to write more books and an autobiography.






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