We’re back with another Zarda Bar-B-Q team member in our “Get to Know” series! Mary Kate is the assistant manager at the Blue Springs Zarda location. Learn more about Mary Kate, her favorite Zarda memories, and her dream Zarda menu item!

1. What is your role at Zarda, and how long have you been in the business?

It will be 15 years this July, I started on my 17th birthday. My parent’s had been bringing me here my whole life and we knew Chris Whitfield (another Zarda Bar-B-Q team member in Blue Springs) pretty well, so I’d have to admit she had a bit to do with me getting my start. I’ve worked & managed at both Zarda stores over the years along with working catering & maintenance. I guess I’d say I’m now the Assistant to the General Manager.

2. What’s a day in the life like for you at Zarda?

It’s different everyday it seems! Generally, we come in and get the oven loaded and get ready for lunch. Making sure we’re prepared for the day. Every day is definitely different though.

3. What part of your job at Zarda do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the customers and working with all of the other Zarda employees, learning how they work and learning how we can work even better together.

4. What is your personal favorite thing on the Zarda menu, and what makes it so good?

I’ve been a picky eater my whole life so this will be boring, but the fresh sliced ham just by itself is heavenly! But if I had to be more normal, a beef and ham sandwich with extra sauce slathered on white bread. I actually use our Apple Harvest sauce on hamburgers at home!

Mary Kate’s plant room at home!

5. Tell us a little bit about your family and what you like to do outside of work?

I’m married, we have 2 cats and I have about 80-ish houseplants that have their own room in the house. We’ve finally upgraded my garden from pickle buckets to raised garden beds this year, so once I get home from work until dark you can generally find me out in the garden tending plants or in my plant room.

6. What is the one thing on the menu that every visitor to Zarda needs to try?

Mary Kate’s favorite – the Average Joe!

I would have an Average Joe, it’s got everything. Tender meat, gooey cheese and the crisp from the toasted bun & onion rings.

7. What are your favorite memories of working at Zarda?

There have been so many over the years, but I’ll highlight the funniest. Out in Lenexa one night at the beginning of my managing career I had a customer come in saying the roof was on fire, so I followed him outside to take a look and after a few choice words I run back in to call the fire department. Sarah Tyson helped get everyone out of the store and while we’re waiting on the fire department, people are eating in the parking lot, checking out the roof and what not. Come to find out the smoke coming out of one of our BBQ pit smokestacks was perfectly backlit by an amber colored light – and looked exactly like flames! As embarrassing as it all could have been, it was still pretty amazing how we worked as a team to get all the customers out safely. Having had that experience, it was reassuring to know we could handle that situation if it ever happens for real.

8. What accomplishment are you most proud of during your time at Zarda?

I would say getting to the point of where I am and the role I have – I just worked my way up from the counter. I learned how to cook and run the pit. Becoming a manager is something that I’m very proud of.

9. What separates Zarda BBQ from other KC BBQ places?

I would say the family atmosphere at Zarda. We are a really a family more than anything else. As much as we are here to prepare and serve great BBQ to our customers, we are here to help make the people we work with better, to really help them learn. Overall, it’s just a great family atmosphere.

10. If you could create one menu item for Zarda what would it be – describe it to us!

I wish there was a way to do a BBQ grilled cheese, maybe with some smoked brisket and some nicer cheeses. I think that sounds really good!

We appreciate Mary Kate and everything she does for the Zarda team! Stay tuned as we feature more Zarda team members in the future!