Rob McDaniel

Years of Participation

Chef Rob McDaniel and his wife, Emily, own and operate Helen, a contemporary Southern grill opening in downtown Birmingham in the Summer of 2020.

McDaniel’s passion and respect for traditional Southern cuisine was first inspired by the foods his grandmothers prepared while he was growing up in Haleyville, Alabama. At Auburn University, McDaniel decided to pursue this passion as a career and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management. After graduating, McDaniel headed north to Montpelier, Vermont, where he studied at the New England Culinary Institute. During his time there, McDaniel honed his knowledge of and appreciation for sustainable cooking and became an advocate for supporting local farmers and preserving regional resources.

In his previous positions, McDaniel worked under prestigious chefs such as 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 2009, McDaniel accepted the position of executive chef for the soon-to-debut SpringHouse restaurant.

During his time spent in these kitchens, McDaniel developed a passion for Southern foods, foraging, and sustainability that has evolved into the culinary style that he is known for today. His philosophy of respecting the land and using it as inspiration is showcased through his dedication to simple recipes enhanced by flavorful ingredients. McDaniel is a five-time James Beard Foundation Best Chef: South semifinalist (2013-2017), and was honored as Auburn University’s 2012 Outstanding Hotel and Restaurant Management Program Alumnus.

When McDaniel isn’t in the kitchen, he can be found spending time outdoors, whether it’s on a boat with his wife and twin daughters or out in the woods hunting, fishing, or foraging.