If you know Bobby, there’s a good chance that you also know Natalia Olejnik. She’s a born-and-bred Chicago native, and she’s leading the beverage development over here at Bobby Hotel. The figurehead of a fierce, female-led bar team, Natalia’s experience in the hospitality industry makes her a spirited force to be reckoned with.
Ever since she was a teenager, Natalia’s been working with powerhouses in the food, beverage, and entertainment worlds: the nationally-acclaimed Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria (a Chicago institution), Coyote Ugly, House of Blues, Pops for Champagne, and Lettuce Entertain You… just to name a few. She’s held leadership positions in both training and entertainment environments, but has fully embraced the Head of Beverage Development position that feels like it was grown specifically for her.
“I’ve been approached several times about the direction I wanted to take here, so this step felt organic. I wanted to jump head-first into the creative side of things — developing and training, making things work the way they should.”
A true student to the craft and complexity of beverage development, Natalia’s former lives have found her in Midwest test-bar laboratories, champagne studies in France, in-depth beer and wine educational programs, and managing boutique cocktail bars on the West Coast. She and her fiancée, Sean, have called Nashville “home” since moving here in 2015 along with their American Bulldogs, Enzo and Bugsy (after Chicago mobsters, of course), and their cats, Rumple Minze and Georgie Dickel.
At home, Natalia cooks up herbal simple syrups and experiments with fresh, lively flavors – and when it comes to crafting cocktails – she draws inspiration from her own personal adventures, both around the city and around the world. “That’s what I do for fun, you know. I love checking out the buzzy new spots in town, getting to know the bartenders, watching and learning what they’re doing. When I travel, it’s the same way. I’m drawing on personal experience and trying to recreate some of my favorite things I’ve seen, but incorporating original elements and ingredients.” Despite extensive travel under her belt both stateside and abroad, she remains thirsty to broaden her cultural perspectives and palate.
Natalia contributes much of her headstrong and independent nature to her late mother, Geri – a single mom and devout schoolteacher with the Chicago public school system. “She was so elegant but such a hard worker. She treated her students like her own children, and taught me to find balance in life. She was a people-pleaser, in a good way, and made sure everything always turned out okay. I feel her spirit a lot, and I think that’s what has been guiding me.”