Santa Maria Sun / Eats
10 questions with Kay Flagg: Catching up with the owner of Kay's Country Kitchen in Orcutt
BY WENDY THIES SELL
You know you’ve made it big when everyone knows you by just one name.
Orcutt’s single-named icon is Kay.
I recently sat down for a cup of coffee at the copper counter inside Kay’s Country Kitchen with Kay Flagg during a busy Friday morning breakfast rush, where we talked about food, love, and why life is so good.
WTS: There is such a great energy this morning here at Kay’s. How’s it going?
Kay: Professionally, the restaurant has never done better. This last year has been one of my best years here at Kay’s. My crew is very solid and strong and have been with me for quite a few years, and my management’s been good. The general response outside of the community about Kay’s on social media, Yelp, and all those different sites, have really brought tourism to me. It’s been so noticeable to me this year. I’m very pleased with the business portion of my life. Kay’s has always been my love. I’m proud of my love. I’m proud of this girl!
WTS: On a personal level, you seem really happy. What’s up?
Kay: I am remarrying! I’m really excited! This man who has come into my life has been an extremely good fit for me. He has made my life a lot easier. It makes it a lot easier for me as a boss, as an owner of this restaurant, because it’s a lot of responsibility. I feel like I’m sharing it with somebody, and I’m very happy. And I think that’s noticeable to people who know me and love me.
WTS: Congratulations! When is the wedding?
Kay: I’m getting married at the end of October. We’re getting married in Yosemite in the little chapel inside the park. We’re very happy! In lieu of a reception, we’re throwing a party for the employees here because this is where I met him. This is where I knew him from, this restaurant. He was a customer for years. My youngest daughter set us up. And there we are! These people are my family, so to speak. And we thought: ‘What better way to share our love?’
WTS: Now, let’s talk food. What are the most popular menu items at Kay’s?
Kay: Several things are top sellers: I sell a huge amount of chicken fried steak and eggs, and we have homemade gravy that we make every day, so people really like the biscuits and gravy. The Too Much To Drink Omelette is an extremely popular one, and the Orcutt Hash seems to be a top seller as well. We have a club sandwich that’s dynamite, and we are running these specials that are gluten free, like Shannon’s Scramble, that are really becoming popular as well.
WTS: What’s your favorite thing on the menu?
Kay: I’ve tried everything many, many, many times here. I love my bacon! I can’t tell you how many times a week I order a couple slices of bacon with my food. I really love my hamburgers; I think we have a really good hamburger and I get it a dozen different ways. And I have really great salads.
WTS: Any plans to expand hours beyond breakfast and lunch?
Kay: We get here at 4:30 or 5 in the morning and we don’t get out of here until 5 in the afternoon. I try to focus my attention to breakfast and lunch. I have no desire to put out any more energy than that. I plan on taking very, very good care of Kay’s Country Kitchen so that it continues to be a place where people want to gather and we create that kind of atmosphere for people.
WTS: What do you think is the key to your success?
Kay: I think that the reason that people like coming in here is because it feels like they’re coming into someone’s home. This is the feedback that’s been given to me over the years. Our philosophy is that we are honored that you walked through the door, so we want to give you eye contact, we want to talk to you, and the guys [in the kitchen] try to give you the best food. So by the time you leave, you feel better for it. People like that friendly wonderful vibe that they get, at least that’s what we try to give them.
WTS: After working as a waitress here for eight years, you bought the restaurant in 2000. Describe the feeling when you saw your name on the building the first time?
Kay: Quite honestly, I’m a worker bee and I really never saw myself in this position. So even to this day, when I see ‘Kay’s’ on the front of the building, I’m always thankful to God that I’m able to do this. I’m so thankful!
WTS: What has been the biggest challenge of owning the restaurant?
Kay: Handling all the different aspects of the back of the restaurant and the front of the restaurant. I’m a woman who’s very secure in customer service, but I’m not a plumber or an electrician. You have to have many different hats, and you have to really surround yourself with people that are on a team with you, and they buy into it.
WTS: What has been the biggest pleasure?
Kay: Hands down, the biggest pleasure, the biggest honor, is the customers. The customers here have been my support and my love and my happy place, no matter what has gone on. This place has been my haven, and the people who have walked through the doors have loved me.
Sun wine and food columnist Wendy Thies Sell can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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