Chef Ann Butler, a former high school culinary arts teacher, discovered that educating teenagers about food and nutrition was much overdue. What started out as a venture to teach younger children about food, turned into a multi-dimensional company called The Edible Education Group. With four children’s schools in Richmond and Atlanta, a Midlothian restaurant called 21 Spoons, culinary kits sold through Etsy, and Kitchen a la Carts – portable, teaching kitchens sold across the country – Ann and The Edible Education Group are on a mission to get kids, educators, and everyone in between, excited about food!
In 2010, Ann took off with Edible Education, a children’s culinary experience, offering chefs and cooking classes to nearby schools. After partnering with a non-profit, she was awarded a grant which allowed her to bring her business to five schools a month for three years while collecting data. As Ann’s business continued to grow, she could no longer teach her 60 students from Winterpock Elementary in her basement. She progressed to a 700-square-foot kitchen rental. With impressive endeavors along the way such as being one of the chefs in Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to School program, implementing salad bars in Richmond Public Schools, attending a Food Changers party at the Governor’s Mansion, the opening of Edible Education in Midlothian, and leading the largest Food Revolution Day event with English Chef and restaurateur, Jamie Oliver, Ann’s success with food education was on the rise.
Exhausted with transporting cooking gear throughout seven counties, Ann collaborated with a food cart designer to create a portable teaching kitchen, the Kitchen a la Cart. After touring the country to sell the carts in 2016, she moved to Missouri, upon being accepted to a business accelerator, where she obtained a patent and investors. Soon after, Ann relocated to Memphis to coordinate partnerships with Memphis Public Schools, Tilth, St. Jude's Hospital, and the University of Memphis. It was around this time that The Edible Education Group was named Top 10 Companies to Watch from Tech Day NYC (2017). After making her way back to Midlothian, Ann opened a second Edible Education located in Stony Point Fashion Park and two more schools in Atlanta, as authorized Edible Education schools to test the franchise model. As things continued in an upward direction, coronavirus came sweeping through America and everything changed.
Ann explains, “surviving covid as a business owner was a huge risk – the uncertainty from day to day was unnerving and was approached on bended knee often. As a children’s cooking school owner, I had no idea when we would see children again with no school on the horizon.” At the same time, the commercial real estate market was still good and Ann was offered the chance to lease the space next door to the Edible Education in Midlothian. While everyone in town was closing, Ann took the space, which happened to be a former restaurant and created a pop-up place for displaced chefs. Although she had no intention of opening a restaurant, Ann decided to do so with fellow chef, Bill Erlenbach, and 21 Spoons opened in March of 2021. After helping the restaurant take off, Chef Bill departed from 21 Spoons in July of 2022.
Fast forward to today, 21 Spoons is named one of the South’s best local restaurants by Southern Living magazine. 21 Spoons was born under the same philosophy as the cooking school – good, seasonal, and real food with no artificial ingredients. The menu changes seasonally with delicious items like handmade pasta and soups, charcuterie boards, flatbreads, and more. Gluten-free options are always available, even desserts! When customers first arrive at 21 Spoons, they are greeted by the host, Mark Pye, who escorts them to their tables with a fun champagne coupe name card. Ann and her staff make it a point to remember everyone, and they even hand out birthday and anniversary cards when they know guests are heading in for a special occasion. On the drink side of 21 Spoons, Taylre Lamendola, barkeeper extraordinaire, ensures the bar is up-to-date with the most recent cocktail trends. Last year’s trend was the Bacon Me Crazy Martini, followed by this year’s homemade marshmallows and smoking cool bourbon drinks. Whether it’s food or drinks being served at 21 Spoons or through Edible Education, the mission remains the same – to get all people excited about real food.
Schedule a cooking class at Edible Education by visiting: edibleedu.com.
Explore the menus and events at 21 Spoons by visiting: 21spoonsrva.com.
Gluten Free Chocolate Quinoa Cake (makes one 8-inch round)
● 2 cups cooked quinoa (cooled and fluffed up)
● 3 eggs
● 1/3 cup of coconut milk
● 1 teaspoon vanilla
● 1/2 cup olive oil
● 1 ½ cup sugar
● 1 cup cocoa powder
● 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
● ½ teaspoon baking soda
● ½ teaspoon salt
● Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
● Combine eggs, quinoa, milk, vanilla, olive oil, sugar, cocoa powder in a blender and puree.
● Transfer to a mixing bowl and add baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
● Pour into cupcake tin, tart pan or round cake pan that has been buttered and sprinkled with cocoa powder.
● Bake for 20 – 35 minutes depending on pan.
● Top with whipped cream or buttercream icing if desired.
“I had no intention of opening a restaurant, but with everyone in town closing, I thought let’s create a pop-up space so all these chefs would have somewhere to call home.”-Ann Butler