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February 23, 2017

Faces of Fauquier: Florist finds new career in Orlean

Photo/Don Del Rosso
“I would come here and have wine,” says Porter Gaier, chief cook at he Orlean Market & Gilliam’s Pub. “It was like the first place I would go to be social.”
It’s definitely a place that fulfills the vision I had for my life, which was a really quiet, country, relaxed environment, where there’s a huge sense of community and good, strong family values.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The Florida florist needed a change.

By chance — after a far-flung search — Porter Gaier, 27, discovered Orlean and a new career.

“I wanted to have a very simple life,” recalls Ms. Gaier, chief cook for The Orlean Market & Gilliam’s Pub at Leeds Manor and John Barton Payne Road, a historic village crossroads in Northern Fauquier. “And, I literally went from Seattle to New Mexico to California and to New England. I went everywhere looking for this place. And, I just happened to stumble across the Warrenton area.”

When the Vero Beach transplant arrived in Fauquier in early 2016, she planned to continue working as a florist.

Ms. Gaier had applied for jobs at a Warrenton florist and an area estate to work in its gardens.

Meanwhile, she hung out at The Orlean Market.

“I would come here and have wine,” Ms. Gaier says. “It was like the first place I would go to be social.”

Through those visits, she met owner Kia Kianersi, who bought the restaurant about two years ago.

“I would just come to the bar and have a couple of glasses of wine, and we started talking,” Ms. Gaier says. “It wasn’t for a couple of months that we started thinking like ‘Hey, we kind of like each other’.”

They have been a couple ever since.

In March 2016, Ms. Gaier started working as a cashier at the restaurant and market.

Out of necessity — because of high turnover — she became its chief cook, drawing on culinary experience gained through a lifelong interest in food.

“We had gone through a lot of chefs and cooks at the market,” says Ms. Gaier, who lived in Pittsburgh until the age of 15, when she and her family moved to Florida. “I’m a home cook.

“My family is a very foodie family. My sister is a classically-trained pastry chef. And my dad, when he was in college at American University, was a sous chef in a restaurant in D.C. My whole family, they love to eat, they love to cook. So, I sort of just grew up around it.”

To this day, Ms. Gaier’s mother in many ways remains her greatest influence in the kitchen.

“My mom is a fantastic cook. Everything I make is something that I learned from her, or something I consult her on.”

Ms. Gaier likens the fare she prepares to “regular, home-cooked, Sunday meal food — the food you grew up eating. Very steak-and-potatoes-oriented. Nothing too exotic,” with perhaps a French twist.

“My mom grew up watching Julie Child on PBS,” she says. “She gets a lot of her recipes from Julia Child.”

Recent dinner menus at the Orlean market featured bacon-wrapped meatloaf, with truffle butter served with mashed potatoes and Brussel sprouts; jumbo panko-breaded butterflied shrimp with homemade coleslaw and Cajun fries; and, hot Italian Stromboli.

The restaurant features live music, without a cover charge, Saturday nights.

The last Friday of the month features a bluegrass-only, “community jam,” with area musicians from ages 12 to 75.

“It’s one of our biggest nights,” Ms. Gaier says.

• Age: 27

• Home: Orlean

• Work: Chief cook, The Orlean Market & Gilliam’s Pub, August 2016 to present; cashier, Orlean Market, March to August 2016; designer, Del Ray Beach Florist, April 2013 to May 2015.

• Why do you do the job?
I love the area. I love the market. And, I do love to cook.

• Family: Parents; Kate Woody and Mark Gaier; sister, Ridgely Gaier, 23.

• Education: Bachelor’s degree, anthropology, Rollins College, Winter Park, Fla., 2013; St. Edward’s School, Vero Beach, Fla., 2008.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
Fifteen months.

• Why do you live here? 
I literally searched the country, after I graduated from college, for a setting for the vision I had for my life. It’s a very ethereal dream. It’s very whimsical. I wanted to live in the country. I wanted to have a very simple life. And, I literally went from Seattle to New Mexico to California and to New England. I went everywhere looking for this place. And, I just happened to stumble across the Warrenton area. When I was looking around, it just sort of fell into place.

Within two weeks, I had moved from South Florida to Orlean, Virginia. It was like a cosmic experience that brought me here. But, I think it’s intentional. It’s definitely a place that fulfills the vision I had for my life, which was a really quiet, country, relaxed environment where there’s a huge sense of community and good, strong family values.

• How do you describe this county? 
There’s sort of a dichotomy about it. You think it’s a blue-collar town. And, there are a lot of farmers. But, they’re all incredibly educated and cultured. So, it’s the best of both worlds.

From my experience at the market, you can’t tell the difference between someone who has vast wealth versus people who work hard and live paycheck-to-paycheck, because they treat each other the same way. It’s a very equal place. They treat each other like a human being, because they’re all in it for the same reason — to better their community.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
That’s a hard one. I haven’t been here long enough. I really don’t know what I would change right now. I’m also still in this honeymoon phase of moving here and this idealized situation I’m in.

• What do you do for fun? 
Gardening. I used to be a florist, so that is one of my favorite hobbies. I like being outside, studying the plants and the animals in the area, the birds, insects — things like that.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
The Orlean Market. It’s just really a fun time. We’re all friends. Saturday nights and Friday nights, we all get together with a fire and listen to music. It’s just a great place to hang out and be social.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years? 
I hope it looks the same, with better internet.

• Favorite TV show?
“Planet Earth II.”

• Favorite movie? 
“Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion.”

• Favorite book?
“Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” by John Berendt.

• Favorite vacation spot? 
Harbor Island, Bahamas.

• Favorite food? 
Smoked salmon and caviar.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom? 
My 11th-grade world history teacher told us never put all of your eggs in one basket, because we’re never going to be doing the same thing forever. So, it would be advantageous for us to learn many trades to be truly successful in life.

• Who’s your hero and why?
My younger sister, because she’s opinionated; she’s independent; she’s creative. She’s just got everything going on. She’s my role model. I must have known that when she first was born, because I was attached to her like glue. Like, “This girl is going to do great things.” Now she does. She’s really awesome.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery? 
Travel the world. Pay back my parents for my education. Probably give a lot of it environmental charities.

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Do you know someone who lives in Fauquier County you would like to see in Faces of Fauquier? E-mail Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), Don Del Rosso at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Editor Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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