Chef’s Corner: Thad Gillies Brings Flavor to Venue by 4M

Venue by 4M could be considered a mega-restaurant, even by Ann Arbor standards,  featuring office spaces for rent, meeting rooms and a separate convenience store additional to the restaurant itself. This restaurant, which occupies a former grocery store, hosts 25,000 square feet of event space that accommodates nearly 600 guests. 

Holding spaces for large and small events, five restaurants, and a full bar, Venue by 4M is a multi-purpose space. Leading the charge of the restaurant are Chef Thad Gillies, the Executive Chef and Culinary Director, and Margaret Poscher, Venue’s CEO. Gillies was the former owner of Ann Arbor restaurant Logan in downtown Ann Arbor, which closed due to the pandemic in 2020. 

Located at 1919 S. Industrial Hwy, in Ann Arbor, Venue’s interior is angelic and open, with work zones separated by a steady flow of restaurant activity. Venue restaurants include Americana, Mesa Taqueria, Pizza Forum, Pasta Forum and Bar19. Giles shares his favorite aspects of the new restaurant and how he believes the business will continue to thrive.

Your restaurant promise is to serve delicious, handmade food and quality spirits and to serve your customers with grace, kindness and a sense of joy. How is that ensured? 

Everything I do is from scratch. It’s all from the heart. This being an old Kroger’s, I have a copious amount of space from a chef’s point of view. I’m used to having restaurants where you need all the dining room space for the building you have, and the kitchen is an afterthought. In this building, I have 10,000 square feet for the kitchen. We make pasta fresh every day, and you need space because it runs about 20 feet. We want real pasta, we want real tacos, we make fresh masa tortillas every day by hand, and the pizza is the same way. It is a Neapolitan-style pizza with Ann Arbor sourdough. The mother is 18 months old now, and the restaurant is just a year old. It’s made fresh literally every day.

Your restaurant is made of a host of different restaurant menus and bars. What was the history behind that decision, from your knowledge. 

When we first started, we tried an all-digital menu. I wanted the menu broken up to make it easy to read on your phone. I wanted 10-12 pizzas that you could see right there, same with the pasta. But now, we have a paper menu, and it is structured like a regular menu. But in the beginning, we created these environments where we had a Masa Taqueria, pizzas and pasta forum, where you could see the imagery on your phone.  When you’re feeling pizza, you can look at that section on the menu and see the pizza. We also have brunch and banquet menus. There’s so much food; we broke it down so it’s easy to find. That’s the biggest reason.

With so many options, from the extensive drink menu, to the food selections, how does that translate to the customization options that you have as a chef and that customers also have? 

I’ve come up with a weekly special every week. We do monthly wine dinners, where we can go way off the menu to explore the fine dining, Michelin star range for people. We can do that element, which is fun.

The interior of the restaurant is unique because it has a modern home feel, but it’s also clearly a restaurant, but with a sleek décor. How would you describe the restaurant’s design? 

In this post pandemic world we went for something open and airy. It has this openness to it because it’s so big, and the way that we segmented the restaurant, it’s cavernous but we didn’t want it to feel intimate.  It looks nice and we have real palm trees and a bunch of plants. So it has this nice California feel.

What aspect of the Ann Arbor food scene do you enjoy the most? 

I love how much Korean cuisine we have. The Asian influence that keeps growing in the cities over the last 30 years keeps getting better, which is amazing. There’s a bao place on Main Street. The bao and dumpling places are really good. I’m a sucker for family-run businesses too. The whole family cooking behind the counter is my favorite.

What did you do before Venue?

I owned two restaurants in Ann Arbor. I owned Logan restaurant, which was open for 18 years here in town, and we were the pinnacle of fine dining, in my opinion, for Ann Arbor, and COVID shut me down. I also opened a fast-casual Asian restaurant called Chow. I’ve been cooking In this town for 38 years, from flipping burgers in college all the way to those restaurants. I went off to New York and trained, and I became a chef at Zingerman’s at the deli, then I went on my own.

Hypothetically, let’s say it’s your day off, what’s your go-to restaurant in the area? 

Because of the convenience of it, Panda House. It’s one of the few restaurants that still does not deliver through GrubHub. And because I’m a sucker for Americanized Chinese food fast and it’s easy to please the whole family.

What do you feel is the next step for Venue ‘s menu?

Being a year into the restaurant, we’re solidifying what we’re doing. The change that we made was doing the wine dinners. We have your everyday dining and fun food to eat but then go into this realm of five-course tasting menus for once a month. That’s one aspect of our business. The other aspect of our business is the amount of banquets we can do. Because we have such a unique space with 120 parking spots, people are finding us because there are not too many places in town where you can sit down with a couple 100 people and do this level of food.

1919 S Industrial Hwy, Ann Arbor. 734-800-0128.

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Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.

Antonio Cooper
Antonio Cooper
Antonio Cooper is a freelance journalist from Detroit, Michigan. His coverage of music festivals and interviews with local celebrities appeared in The E-Current Magazine, The Detroit Metro Times, XXL Magazine, RichMagDigital, The Ann Arbor Observer, and Pop Magazine.

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