Bobby and Hanna Benjamin on food, faith and family
By Mariah Kline
“Food, faith and family. It sounds so cheesy, but when I have to describe our life, those are the important things,” says Hanna Benjamin, mother of three daughters and wife of chef Bobby Benjamin of Butchertown Grocery and Butchertown Grocery Bakery.
Hanna and Bobby have created a unique environment for their family to thrive in – juggling business ownership, individualized schooling and of course, an appreciation for the culinary arts.
Their love story began in 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee, where Hanna grew up most of her life. The two met while Bobby was working for a country club, but before meeting Hanna, he caught the eye of her mother.
“My mom lived in the neighborhood that the country club was in, and she kept telling Bobby, ‘You have to meet my daughter,’” Hanna recalls. “He used to hear that a lot with women, so he just went along with it politely… Never in a million years would I have thought that my mom would be the one to find me my husband, but she was.”
After Hanna spotted Bobby in the country club’s dining room on Easter Sunday, she wholeheartedly agreed with her mother. The next day, Hanna “played hooky” from work so she could eat lunch at the club and have the chance to talk to Bobby, who was getting ready to leave Nashville for a job at the Seelbach Hilton. Sparks flew immediately, and the pair saw each other every night until he left for Louisville. Their relationship became long distance, but a few months in, Bobby proposed and one year later, he and Hanna became husband and wife.
“It was kind of crazy, but sometimes they say, ‘When you know, you know,’” says Hanna.
Today, they are the proud parents of three daughters: Copeland Pearl, 5, Phifer Grace, 3, and Wynter Olivia, 1. As Hanna brings up their children and Bobby runs two successful restaurants, both are working to create a vibrant life for their three little loves.
Wynter is Coming
Becoming a family of five didn’t happen in the most conventional manner for the Benjamins. After Copeland was born and delivered by C-section in 2014, doctors ordered a test for the baby’s heart as a precautionary measure. Hanna’s heart was tested by mistake, but the error revealed a congenital heart defect that should have been detected years ago when she was born.
“People who have this defect and it goes undetected often die by the age of 40,” Hanna says. “If I had delivered Copeland naturally, I most likely wouldn’t have made it. It was a crazy thing that they accidentally found this.”
Thankfully, doctors were able to put a stent in Hanna’s heart, and she was told she could have more children without much risk. But a small amount of fear still lingered and the couple had previously discussed the idea of adoption.
“A lot of it is very faith-based,” says Hanna. “I just felt called to adopt – that it was something I was supposed to do.”
Following the birth of Phifer, she and Bobby decided that they were ready to explore adoption. Since they knew the process could take up to two years or more, the couple decided to act quickly. After researching their options, Hanna and Bobby hired an adoption consultant, but they didn’t have to wait the anticipated two years. Two weeks into the process, their consultant matched the couple with a birth mother. Their third girl was on the way.
“It was early on in her pregnancy so it wasn’t like we were getting a baby the next day,” Hanna says. “But the hardest part is the waiting and feeling like you have no control over what’s going on.”
They played the waiting game for several months until they received the call in January 2019 that Wynter was on her way. The family flew to the birth mother, and Hanna met her and her family members for the first time.
“They were all sweet and supportive and thankful that I was able to be (Wynter’s) mom,” Hanna says. “They let me be in the room for the birth, which was amazing. I had never seen a natural birth since I had two C-sections. I got to cut the cord, and all of it was really, really special.”
Hanna also got to nurse the baby, something adoptive mothers rarely get to do.
“Phifer was nursing when we got matched so I decided to continue breastfeeding,” she says. “I was able to immediately start nursing Wynny, so it was great that I could give her those nutrients and have that bond with her.”
In addition to parenting, Hanna is also taking on the role of part-time teacher. Copeland recently began a homeschool hybrid program in which she spends two days a week at New Song Christian Academy and the remaining days learning at home. The balance of traditional classroom learning with homeschooling gives kids a dynamic experience and allows parents more time with their kiddos.
“This was really important to me as I was seeing how quickly my children were growing,” Hanna says. “I knew I was going to be missing so much time away from them. That was just so sad to me because I want to cherish these moments and be with them as much as I can.”
Education is extremely important to the Benjamins, and this includes a proper culinary education. Though he doesn’t care if his girls ever pursue cooking professionally, Bobby will be teaching them to appreciate where food comes from and how it’s made.
“It’s about having a relationship with food, and that’s what I want them to understand,” he says. “We want them to learn about the work that’s put into it. It’s not just about going to the farmers market in the summertime – it’s about what we’re eating year-round, how we’re eating it and why we’re eating it.”
Hanna and Bobby are both extremely mindful of what they eat and have become too familiar with how food and household items can negatively affect our bodies.
“When Copeland was four months old, my dad passed away from colorectal cancer,” Hanna explains. “One of the last things he left me with was, ‘Please be careful with what you’re putting in and on your body.’ Through research that I’ve done, I’m seeing that so much disease is caused by what we’re eating and what we’re putting in our home.”
In the kitchen, organic foods abound, and Bobby has begun teaching the kids how to prepare simple dishes.
“I’ve already gotten Copeland a set of chef’s knives and showed her how to use them,” he laughs.
Raising three future world-changers is no easy task. As a full-time mom and a full-time chef, Hanna and Bobby’s jobs allow for little rest. But each day, they rise to the occasion.
“They’re very patient with me,” Bobby says of his family members. “It’s a constant work in progress – trying to balance the restaurant lifestyle and being there for your kids. It’s a challenge, but I enjoy the challenge.”
“As a mom you are on 24 hours a day and as a business owner you are as well,” says Hanna. “We’re always exhausted and feeling like we need a break, but it’s hard to find at this stage. A big part of it is just pushing forward and doing the best we can day by day.” V