CLEVELAND, Ala. — When it came time to choose a major for her college education, Samantha Butler decided to go with something she loved to do, cook. “My dad and I were talking about it and he said, ‘You like to cook.’ I agreed and so that is when I chose to major in Culinary Arts at Wallace State.”

Butler wasn’t unfamiliar with Wallace State. Before joining what she said was considered the first Culinary Arts program (it was previously known as Commercial Foods), Butler was a Dual Enrollment student at Wallace State, completing her last two years at Cleveland High School while simultaneously earning college credit.

By 2009, she had earned her Associate in Applied Science in Culinary Arts and was attending Jacksonville State University to follow another passion, helping youth.

“I was going to go into special education,” Butler said. But she said it seemed she would be spending more time doing paperwork than helping children. She came back home to Blount County to work on her parents’ farm and in their family business, The Flower Shop.

Shortly after, an opportunity came up to rent a building in Cleveland and Butler went back to her culinary roots and opened The Wood Fire Grill.

“Three years later and here I am,” she said.

Butler said she felt very prepared to tackle owning and operating a restaurant. She said her Wallace State Culinary instructor was “a big help with where I am today. I think he knew where we all were going to be and made sure we knew what we needed to know so we’d be prepared. He put me in the office doing management work, so when I opened my own restaurant, I was ready.”

Butler said she also appreciated the family atmosphere at Wallace State.

“Wallace was a big part of teaching me that everyone is family,” she said. “That’s how they are at Wallace.”

As for her passion for helping children, she still does that through sponsoring local school teams or students in need, such as helping sponsor a pageant contestant.

For more information about Wallace State, visit or call 256.352.8000.