Chef Spotlight: Rob McDaniel

August 22, 2017

Working in the food industry can be exhausting thanks to the late nights and hectic shifts, but add to that a set of 3 month old twins and it’s a miracle Alabama chef Rob McDaniel is still standing. “I haven’t been out much lately,“ said the new dad, who’s also the executive chef for SpringHouse, an upscale eatery located in the Russell Lands development on Lake Martin.

“I look forward to sharing good food with them,” he added, about his baby girls. “I’ve already got them sitting on the counter with me while I cook.”

Proud papa McDaniel returns to the Cook-Off to share his “approachable food” during the chef demonstrations on Saturday. “I don’t cook my best when competing,” he said. “ I like to think about what I’m making and be very intentional with the preparation.”

An Auburn graduate with a stack of food and beverage awards to his name, including four semifinal finishes as Best Chef South from the James Beard Foundation 2013 – 2016, McDaniel was an early adopter of conscious cooking. “I shy away from the term ‘farm to table’ because I think it’s overused,” said McDaniel. “What I do is try to nurture great relationships with the people who grow our food for us and understand what their practices are in doing that regardless of their certification. I think if you’re a chef who doesn’t personally know the people responsible for the ingredients in your kitchen, you’re not farm to table.”

With the pressure to “win” best dish at the Cook-Off off the table, McDaniel still feels the pressure to wow his audience. “In a setting like this, where I’m presenting a single recipe, I’ve only got one chance to show people what I’m about so I’m going to do that with something interesting but also not so complex that it loses them.”

McDaniel appreciates the diversity of the Cook-Off crowd, both in ages and culinary experience but he’s zeroing his talents on one particular group through his demo. “You know everybody has a different comfort level in the kitchen, but I’m hoping to inspire the folks who will take my recipe and cook it on a night that’s not just to get the family fed but to create something that feels special, maybe on a night with friends.”

Grab your friends and check out all the chef demos, Saturday, November 4.