People You Meet with Andrew Dean
Occupation: Manager and chef at Mountain Quest Inn and Institute
Education: Received a culinary arts degree from Stratford University, Falls Church, Virginia
Hometown: I grew up in Arlington, Virginia. Actually, before that I lived in Japan for about five years.
Pets: Two cats and a dog
Hobbies: I used to be an avid skier. Haven’t done that in quite a few years. I enjoy making homemade beer. I actually planted a vineyard. I have yet to make the first bottle of wine, but it’s there. I love to travel, hike, bike and I love to go camping.
Favorite Book: I don’t read a lot of fiction. Most of my favorite books are going to be books on learning things, interesting things.
Favorite Movie: Tombstone
Favorite Thing about Pocahontas County: Beartown State Park is pretty awesome, so when people come here and are wanting to know about things to do, I suggest either Williams River – absolutely gorgeous – or Beartown State Park. I try to go anytime I can.
Philosophy of Life: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Be a good person and enjoy life.
Taking the reins of the family business can be a daunting task for some, but Andrew Dean was ready for the challenge.
“I manage Mountain Quest and I’m also the chef,” he said. “Cheffin’ is really ten percent of what I do here. The rest is marketing and trying to run the place. There’s a little bit of everything I do.”
In 2003, Dean’s parents, Drs. David and Alex Bennett established Mountain Quest as a getaway for families and businesses, as well as a place for the couple to provide professional consulting.
“That’s kind of gone by the wayside the past four or five years, and we’ve turned into more of an upscale B&B,” Dean said. “We do private dinners. We’ve done that over the course of ten years. We’re just trying to be the best at what we do. We try to do weddings, reunions and work retreats.”
With the change, Dean said he hopes to turn Mountain Quest into more than just a place to sleep when people visit other parts of the county.
“I’m trying to make this place into more of a destination,” he said. “That’s my goal. Right now they’re coming here to Mountain Question to just basically go see other things. I’d like to develop something to keep them here.”
Although he has ideas, Dean is tight-lipped about them, at least for now.
“I can’t say them out loud,” he said, laughing. “I can’t give that up. There’s one [idea] in particular. It looks pretty good but it’s going to take a little while. We’ll see. We’re just trying to come up with some more cool activities here on the farm to keep them here.”
The farm itself, with an array of animals is one attraction that has gotten a lot of attention.
“My mother is an animal lover and it’s always been her dream to have horses, so she’s got twelve of them now,” Dean said. “We have Longhorn cattle. We have a couple goats and a sheep. Basically all the animals here are pets. Every morning when we have guests here, we do what we call a farm tour, We take them out and they brush the horses and pet them, and feed them. It’s a regular petting zoo.”
Another unique aspect of Mountain Quest is the rooms themselves. Each of the 12 guests rooms has a theme.
“It was in [Alex’s] head and she designed all the rooms,” Dean said. “She took that over and did what she wanted to do and it’s awesome. People like them. The fantasy room is my favorite. [It] has a huge plush white couch and it also has a love seat. It’s got a huge table in there and a huge king size bed that actually has it’s own steps to get up on it.”
Other room themes include nautical, garden, rustic and oriental.
Although he doesn’t spend the majority of his time in the kitchen, Dean’s love is the culinary arts – a love passed down from his grandparents.
“My grandfather, he started a restaurant up in northern Virginia,” he said. “I cannot for the life of me remember the name of it. That restaurant is still in business today and there’s like fifty or sixty of them. I think I inherited my love of cooking from him and, of course, my grandmother. She cooked all the time and I would cook with her.”
With a love for cooking and a degree in culinary arts, Dean eventually made it his career after taking a turn as a construction worker.
“I don’t know if I was hesitant in trying to find a career but eventually I decided since I loved cooking so much, might as well make a career out of it,” he said.
Moving to Pocahontas County from northern Virginia was difficult for Dean at first. Like most transplants to the county, it took him awhile to get used to a rural area.
“It was really hard to get used to it,” he said. “Probably the first three years were really tough for me because I grew up in northern Virginia. Even though I grew up in a suburb, our neighbor was literally a hundred feet from us, so it was a big change. In 2005, I decided I was going to stay so I built a house on top of the mountain behind Mountain Quest. It took me two years and I did it mostly myself.”
The rural life grew on Dean and he has lost most of the “city slicker” lifestyle.
“Now, it’s awesome,” he said. “I go up to northern Virginia and I’m up there for three days, and I can’t stand it. I’m ready to come home. I appreciate the fact that there’s only three traffic lights here. I appreciate there’s no morning commute and your independence here in the country is much more appreciated, to me, than up in, say, Washington [D.C.] or whatever. I’m perfectly fine with not having a cell phone. This is home.”