Archived Story

Local chef makes cut

Published 11:44am Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rob McDaniel named among 2013 Beard award semifinalists

Rob McDaniel is among the 20 semifinalists for the award of best chef in the South.

The SpringHouse executive chef has been named to the James Beard Foundation’s preliminary list of semifinalists for its 2013 awards, which are considered the culinary world’s top honor.

“It’s kind of like the Grammys of the culinary world,” McDaniel said. “If you think about all of the restaurants in the South and that there’s only 20 chosen in this category, and I’m one of those people – I can’t believe it.”

McDaniel said the honor is one he does not take lightly.

“It’s one of the coolest things professionally that I’ve ever experienced,” McDaniel said. “(The Beard Awards) are one of the things I’ve always thought about and thought I would love to be thought of in that category, but for it to actually happen is humbling.”

McDaniel finds himself in familiar company as the Beard awards have also recognized his past employers.

Nick Pihakis of Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q is a semifinalist for the country’s outstanding restaurateur for the fourth consecutive year, and Chris Hastings of Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club won the best chef in the South award year.

“I’m very blessed to be considered in that same category,” McDaniel said. “These are people who do really great work.”

The Beard Foundation will narrow its 20 semifinalists in each category to five finalists on March 18. These finalists will travel to New York City, and the winners of each category will be announced at the annual ceremony held at Lincoln Center May 6.

McDaniel said while he would love one to be one of the five finalists, he’s honored just to be recognized and to get to do what he loves every day.

“If I’m a semifinalist for the next 10 years, that’ll be great,” McDaniel said. “I’m very fortunate in that I do what I love. I’m doing what I love every day.”

McDaniel said being a semifinalist for the best chef in the South is an honor he owes to his staff.

“Being on this list is a huge accomplishment for me, SpringHouse and the whole staff,” McDaniel said. “There’s no way I could have made this accomplishment happen by myself. It’s from a lot of hard work from past and present employees of SpringHouse that we’re nominated for this award. My name is on it, but it’s a group thing.”