The Chester County Restaurant Festival returns to downtown West Chester for its 33rd year on Sunday, September 16th, 2012. Back by popular demand is the Chester County Culinary Cookoff, which vies four notable, locals chefs against one another — all battling for the title of “Best Chester County Chef.”

The Chester County town of Phoenixville will be represented when Andrew Deery, Chef at Majolica, takes the Culinary Cook-off “stage” on Sunday. Majolica is a restaurant recognized not only by the lively town it resides in and surrounding cities, but also honored by Philadelphia Magazine as one of the 50 Best Places to Eat Right Now. Judges and cook-off viewers can expect the very best from this culinary extraordinaire who can’t wait to have fun and let people know about his passion for cooking.

What are your feelings as you head into the Culinary Challenge for the first time ever? Nervous? Excited? Relaxed? Too busy to think about it?  

Chef Andrew Deery: Busy, yes… always busy. But I am also excited and honored to participate. I love meeting new people, and invite new experiences.  My goal is to have fun, and let people know about the restaurant and our passion for cooking.

The winner of this competition will hold the title of Best Chef in Chester County. Judges and competition aside, what characteristics do you think really make a best chef?  

AD: Organization, unrelenting enthusiasm and motivation, respect for people (customers, employees, vendors, etc), stamina, positive thinking and an encouraging nature.

The Culinary Challenge presents a “think on your feet” scenario. In every day situations at the restaurant are you prone to operating that way or prefer to plan ahead?  

AD: We plan ahead as much as we can.  Like many kitchens, we start with a blank page and create a plan for the day. Though Robert Burns reminds us that “the best-laid plans of mice and men, often go awry.”  Equipment breaks, employees are prone to injury or illness, dietary restrictions or preferences all force us to think on our feet and adjust on a daily basis.

What is one surprise ingredient you would prefer NOT to receive, either because of a personal preference or general difficulty?  

AD: Organ meat. While I occasionally present foie gras, chicken livers or veal sweetbreads on our menu, I tend not to eat them or cook them too often. They require time and thoughtful preparation, and often times cannot be haphazardly included in a dish.

Do you think it’s always possible to incorporate an item at the last minute or would you skip the surprise ingredient (even though using it means extra points) because you feel it would jeopardize your planned dish? 

AD: It’s a gamble. We are arriving with ingredients and preparations in mind.  Quite possibly, the surprise ingredient could totally compromise the dish.  I would rather forfeit the points and retain the integrity of the dish.

What’s one kitchen tool you’d have a hard time competing without?  

AD: My knife.  It’s the most important tool in my kitchen.