“I discovered a passion for food I didn’t realize I had.”
Ashley Olesnevich Executive Sous Chef
Food and Beverage (F&B) is an incredible revenue generator for the Wheeling Park Commission. Beginning in 2019, the Oglebay Foundation began a multi-year renovation plan to update all the event and meeting spaces throughout Wilson Lodge.
Leadership gifts from donors including Jeremy McCamic, Joan and Fred Stamp, and Flip and Gary West were leveraged to make the beautiful upgrades we see today possible.
These investments have paid off handsomely. Comparing calendar year 2020 to calendar year through October 31, 2021, F&B total revenue is 28% higher and our two strongest months of the year are just under way.
Beautiful spaces and décor create the ambiance for incredible dining experiences, but it always comes down to the food. The following profiles give you a glimpse into the F&B team that make our taste buds sing.
Executive Sous Chef
Spoiler Alert: We LOVE Ashley.
Ashley grew up helping her great grandmother and grandmother cook meals for the family. She enjoyed baking cakes for family celebrations. While studying to become a paralegal, the Pennsylvania Culinary Institute (now part of the Culinary Institute of America) held an open house to gauge student interest. “I discovered a passion for food I didn’t realize I had,” Ashley mused.
The course work that sparked her interest was “Garde Manger” the technical term for cold food display such as salad plating, making Pâtés, sausages and charcuterie. Ashley loved building tallow sculptures and canapés.
As part of her studies, Ashley had to intern as an apprentice which she did at Oglebay starting on July 1, 2002 – we’re glad she did! Upon graduation in February 2003, she was hired full-time as Third Cook. Ashley’s hard work, attention to detail and overall positive can-do attitude saw her through the ranks to Second Cook, Garde Manger and Banquets, First Cook – supervising an entire department of up to four cooks depending on the season.
In November of 2011 Ashley was promoted to Sous Chef and Garde Manger overseeing breakfast. By 2019, Ashley was overseeing all banquets and this past October Ashley was made Executive Sous Chef, overseeing the entire kitchen.
When asked to describe her role Ashley explained, “Chef Mirko sets the standard. He creates the menu and directs how food is to be presented. My job is to make sure Chef’s standards are implemented.”
Ashley’s favorite style of cooking is the hearty home cooked meals of her childhood. She has been influenced by many chefs including Gordon Ramsay – “his direct, to the point cooking” and Anthony Bourdain, as well as strong female chefs including Giada De Laurentiis, Rachel Ray and of course Julia Child. “Honestly, you have me with any dish that profiles roasted garlic and parmesan cheese.”
“In 2007 we attended a CIA cake decorating class in Washington D.C. It was a wonderful experience
including the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian and see Julia (Child)’s kitchen.”
Exploring Ashley’s Oglebay experience she shared, “The first time I came to Oglebay was in the fall, the park took my breath away, the trees, the colors, everything. I look for opportunities to get out and see the park every day. Everyone always asks what keeps me here. While there have been opportunities for me to go elsewhere, I love the park and the people I work with.”
Her typical day starts between 6 and 7 am ensuring breakfast is going smoothly. Depending on how busy the restaurant(s) is she’ll work the omelet station. She then does the ordering for the coming days, inventorying the store room. Her office is just off the line, so she can tell when the pressure is on and her team needs her to jump in.
Ashley’s food philosophy, “Follow your gut. If you think it will taste good, go for it! Tweak the seasonings until you get the results you’re looking for. If it doesn’t work out order a pizza and try again tomorrow!”
Director Food & Beverage
Jonathan Story comes to Oglebay from Atlanta where he held the position of Director of F&B at Callaway Gardens.
When asked to describe how he came to Oglebay, Jonathan explains, “My preference was to stay in the south east, but my recruiter kept bringing the Oglebay opportunity to me – like three or four times – telling me just take a look. When I got here, I was blown away by the beauty and the mountains. After speaking with Bob (Peckenpaugh, Wheeling Park Commission President & CEO), I knew right away I wanted to be a part of the Oglebay team. Bob’s enthusiasm for the parks as we experience them today and his vision for their future really sold me.”
Describing his entry to the F&B industry, Jonathan confessed, “I was giving an oral report in a college history class that my professor recorded. When I watched myself stammering, red-faced and sweating, I knew I needed to force myself to be in front of people. So, I got a job in a restaurant knowing nothing about wine or liquor and very little about food. I didn’t know the difference between vodka and whiskey. I instantly fell for the industry. The whole experience of dining, the camaraderie of the people, it all fell into place.”
Fast forward 23 years, Jonathan and his wife Sonja are living at Oglebay. The couple is often spotted wandering the park with their dog, Stella, or exploring their new community.
Jonathan sees a great deal of unmet opportunity with F&B in the park. He and the team are mapping out plans for 2022 and beyond.
Chef Mirko started his career as an apprentice chef in southern Germany in 1974. His culinary experience has taken him across Europe, the United States, China and the Caribbean. He has owned and operated restaurants, taught in culinary schools and served as the Executive Chef for multiple 5 star properties around the world.
Most recently, Mirko was the Executive Chef at Bedford Springs. While in the final discussions about an opportunity in North Carolina, a friend and former colleague, Wes Perry, (Oglebay’s director of maintenance) called him about an opportunity here.
After a marathon week of interviews, cooking and conversations, Mirko accepted the position of Executive Chef at Oglebay.
Talking to Chef, his love of food is clear. “I love any kind of ethnic cuisine that honors the flavors, taste and traditions of that culture,” Chef offered. “The most important part of my job is making people happy. We want them walking in and out with a smile while making their next reservation.”
“Oglebay is a unique property, with a great team. They’re very upbeat, always smiling. It’s clear they work hard, regardless of how busy we are; the team gets the job done. They’re able to accomplish so much. I’m proud to be the chef of this family.”
2021 Light Up Night, showcased some of Chef Mirko’s talents and 2022 will demonstrate his and the entire culinary team’s talents with a new dining option on the lake view patio in the works, updates to the Garden Bistro and more.