Jan and Ranae Gillie started their vegetarian restaurant on the popular Draper and College corner in Blacksburg in 1974. The building was originally a mill, then an appliance store, then a jewelry shop. When their sons Noah and Nick came along, they never even thought to ask how tall they needed to be to go work in the family business.
“We’ve been pretty much working here our whole lives,” Noah recalls, “from having to use a step stool to wash dishes and scoop ice cream (mostly for ourselves).” Just one year out of high school, Noah began working as a full-time dishwasher. Having mastered that, he was bumped into cooking eight months later. It takes longer to master the intricacies of food preparation than dishwashing, and Noah admits he had a rocky beginning in the kitchen. But, on-the-job training is often a most effective training method, and Noah admits that “school and I just don’t get along.”
His break from Gillie’s came with a year in San Francisco working in a fast-paced burger joint as well as a prepared foods deli. “I didn’t learn as much as I hoped, a little about cooking meat, but I still had a ways to go.”
Enter John Dillie, the Gillie’s kitchen manager whom Noah calls Chef. “I have to thank him, because he taught me everything I know today like chopping, ordering, making soups, coming up with specials and lots more. When he left,” Noah continues, “management put the kitchen in my hands. There have been some rough patches, but I think I’ve got the hang of things now. My official position is kitchen manager, but I’m just a cook, and Nick helps me every step of the way.”
Given the first-rate reputation of Gillie’s and the superb food served at all three meals of the day, Noah is lots more than “just a cook.” And at just shy of six feet tall, he can reach everything now. Including the ice cream.
Peanut Tofu Wrap
¼ cup extra firm tofu, cut in cubes
hand full of mixed greens
2 Tbl. shredded carrots
1 10-12” tortilla
Heat a frying pan with veggie oil. Drop in tofu (carefully to reduce spatter). Sauté to golden brown. Drain excess oil. Place in wrap with other ingredients and top with peanut sauce (as much as you want).
6 cloves of garlic
3 Tbl. ginger
½ cup tamari
1 bunch cilantro
1 cup rice fin
2 Tbl. siracha
2 cups peanut butter
1 ½ – 2 cups water to thin
Place everything in a food processor and whirl until smooth.♦ End