Rob McDaniel is the former executive chef of SpringHouse, a local-food-focused restaurant situated a stone’s throw from Lake Martin in Alexander City, Alabama.
McDaniel’s love affair with traditional Southern cuisine was instilled in him by his two Haleyville, Alabama grandmothers, and is a passion he still carries to this day. While at Auburn University, McDaniel decided to make a career out of that passion and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management. After graduating, he headed north to Montpelier, Vermont to study at the New England Culinary Institute. During his time there, McDaniel honed his knowledge of, and appreciation for, sustainable cooking. In doing so, he became an avid advocate for supporting local farmers and preserving regional sources.
McDaniel continued to hone his skills by training under prestigious chefs like Johnny Earles at Criolla’s in Grayton Beach, Florida; Chris Hastings at Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, Alabama; and Drew Robinson at Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ in Birmingham, Alabama. In these kitchens, McDaniel’s passion for Southern foods, foraging, and sustainability evolved into the culinary style he’s known for today. His respect for the land and dedication to its inspiration is showcased through his affinity for creating flavorful recipes crafted from local ingredients.
In 2009, McDaniel was named executive chef and general manager at the soon-to- debut SpringHouse. For more than a decade, he worked tirelessly to ensure SpringHouse’s seasonally based menu stayed true to the region’s local flavors and cuisine. In addition to his work at SpringHouse, McDaniel assumed the role of general manager for the newly re-acquired Kowaliga Restaurant (owned by the same management group as SpringHouse) in 2012.
The numerous awards and accolades McDaniel has received for his work come as no surprise. For the last five years, the James Beard Foundation has named him a Best Chef South semi-finalist. In 2014, SpringHouse was included in Southern Living’s 100 Best Restaurants in the South. McDaniel was honored as Auburn University’s 2012 Outstanding Hotel and Restaurant Management Program Alumnus. And, the Alexander City Chamber of Commerce honored him as the 2017 Chamber Business Person of the Year.
When McDaniel isn’t in the kitchen, he and his wife, Emily, are consumed by their young twin daughters, Rosemary and Amelia.