So Much More Than a Chef’s Wife

Words by Dee Gladden

Photos by James Acomb

Being the wife of a celebrated chef comes with certain expectations. Those expectations were certainly prescribed to Christin Bancroft, wife of Iron Chef and Acre Restaurant owner David Bancroft. Christin was supposed to support her husband and stay to the sidelines, giving him what he needed to succeed in a high-stress, fast-paced environment.

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But Christin has been asked “You’re David’s wife, right?” more times than she can count. At some point, her response became “I’m more than that!” and it could not be more true.  Christin is co-owner of Acre Restaurant and, according to David, a vital part of both his success and the success of the eatery.

When David realized that he wanted to open a restaurant, his first thoughts about how that would look included moving to a big city like Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Chicago. After all, that’s how many of the other great chefs have made their mark. But that was not OK with Christin.

Christin convinced David that he could be a great chef in the community that they loved—Auburn, Alabama. She convinced David that by giving back to their community, the community would return the favor.

“There’s no way that my career would have happened as fast or as cleanly without her. She helped create the confidence that this could happen in this community, where our people and family are,” says David.

Christin chimes in, “We are ingrained in the community. It takes ownership of us and is proud of us.” Giving back to the community of Auburn is important to Christin and David, and being able to do that through the avenue of food is a bonus.

“We have a unique opportunity to tell our story through food right now. We have such a large captive audience because food is cool. We know that to whom much is given much is required. It is our duty to be good stewards of these gifts,” Christin remarks. This isn’t merely a concept or dream to Christin and David. They have follow-through, and they help philanthropically in their community in multiple ways.

Christin serves on multiple boards in the Auburn community, such as the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the board for Storybook Farm (a therapeutic horse riding farm). She has won the title of Diplomat of the Year for the City of Auburn, and she has held numerous positions of leadership across multiple charities, philanthropies, and nonprofits. David attributes her involvement on these boards to her creativity and success in owning a restaurant that gives money, time, attention, presence, products, and service.

But the philanthropic efforts do not stop with personal investments. Christin and David have found ways for Acre Restaurant to give back as well. Two years ago, they were contacted by Harvest Evangelism’s Hosanna Home (a shelter for women and children suffering domestic violence). Hosanna Home wanted leftover produce to supplement the frozen items that were given to them. . Christin’s immediate thought was, “We can do better than giving you scraps!”

Acre had a dish on the menu called the “Lee County Sampler.” It featured fresh produce from the restaurant's own gardens and others in the area. For a year, Acre donated $2 from every sale of that dish to Hosanna Home.

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This family doesn’t just relish the spotlight, they are giving back, and they are teaching their staff to give back as well. Located in a university town, Christin talks of employing many students at the restaurant. She encourages them, “I hope when you leave here, this little philanthropic seed has been planted in you, and you take it with you. You can be a part of your community and share your gifts no matter where you are.”

Just in case all this appears easy, Christin also plays the role of mother to two beautiful young children, Walker and Kennedy. Ten months after Walker’s birth, when the young couple was establishing Acre Restaurant, Christin discovered she was pregnant with Kennedy. It was such a change in a short amount of time that Christin refers to this it jokingly as the “blackout” years. Christin affectionately describes her children as fair with blonde hair like David rather than her darker hair. “I did all the work, and my children look nothing like me!” she laughs.

Christin speaks passionately about fighting to create a home for her children that is peaceful and has stable routines, in spite of the fact that stable routines don’t go along well with the restaurateur life. David adds, “Our hours are so sporadic! She fights and pushes to create normalcy and routine for the children. She provides the same feelings of home and structure that we had when we were growing up, and that’s important to us.”

This young couple doesn’t do it alone. They have a strong support system in their family—both Christin’s parents and David’s parents help out with the children. Christin’s parents moved to Auburn when they had Walker, and Christin’s mother kept the children while David and Christin worked.

And as they embark on yet another new chapter in their life—opening Bow and Arrow (listed on Eater’s Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings)—Christin is still fighting for her children and the Auburn community. She hasn’t lost sight of what is important to her and her family. David summarizes it well: “She’s the straight path. The rest of us are sidewinder roads.”