Pizza for the people

Rob and Sarah McKay

Photo by Cathy Wagner

Rob and Sarah McKay are creating the life of their dreams with their mobile wood-fire pizza business, Drifter Pizza Co. They’ve been together their whole lives; they grew up in Santa Cruz and met in third grade, they started “going together” in eighth grade and have been married now for 20 years. Soon after they got married, the McKays moved to Sebastopol, where Rob spent 17 years as a paramedic and Sarah was a manager and then owner of a climbing gym. They realized, with the birth of their daughter, Tallulah, now 4, that they would have to restructure their lives if they were going to be the kind of dedicated and focused parents they had always wanted to be. And so Drifter Pizza Co. was born. The McKays started the business in 2016 and enjoyed a lot of success with private events in the wine country, but with a second child on the way, they decided to move closer to family, many of whom were in Butte County. Earlier this month, they brought their brand of “farm-to-fire,” Neapolitan-inspired, wood-fired pizza to Chico. They use a sourdough starter for their crust, so it’s a naturally leavened dough, and they source everything as locally and as organically as possible. Give them a try at the Tuesday farmers’ market in Paradise, the Wednesday market in Chico or the Saturday Market in Chico. Visit for more information or to arrange your own private event.

Why pizza?

Rob: I love the social aspect of pizza. You can go into any pizzeria and … a tech person will be sitting right next to a blue-collar, dig-in-the-dirt construction worker or landscape artist. It puts everyone on an even playing field and people identify with that. I love how it can really bring a community together, socially.

Sarah, do you share Rob’s love of pizza?

Sarah: Before we started Drifter, his uncle used to call me Pizza McKay because I just love pizza—but this is Rob’s brainchild and passion.

Why did you leave Sebastopol?

Sarah: We really felt like we were in a lot of transition in our lives, with career stuff for both of us and of course our expanding family, and so we just felt like in Sebastopol we were totally on our own, no family support, and you have to have two full-time incomes to survive. It just got to the point where we were like, “We can do this, but we’re just strung out!”

What do you like about Chico?

Rob: One of the things we intended for Drifter Pizza Co. in the first place was the community aspect of it, the social aspect of pizza that I talked so strongly about. We were a part of the community in Sebastopol for 20 years and as soon as we started the pizza thing, it just seemed like we got swallowed up by the private event monster that’s there. We never got a chance to do much public stuff, which is what we get a chance to do up here.