Kern’s Kitchen doesn’t necessarily operate according to the days of the week, rather, time is measured by how many pies are going in the oven.
The family-owned business is in full throttle this time of year baking its signature Derby-Pies. If you’ve never had one — which would be odd for a Louisvillian — it’s like a warm chocolate chip cookie with walnuts wrapped up in a slice of pie.
During the Kentucky Derby season, this local institution cranks out around 6,400 of its Derby-Pies a week using Kern’s secret family recipe, which was first written in 1954 by Leaudra, Walter + George Kern.
Since its inception, the Derby-Pie has been highlighted by national publications like The New York Times and was named the most famous dessert in the commonwealth, while also being a long-time partner of the Kentucky Derby Festival.
But let’s go back to the original mixing bowl. Its birthplace was the Melrose Inn in Prospect, a since-demolished restaurant the Kerns managed from 1954-1961. The sweet treat got its name as the result of a hat drawing among family members + became a federally registered trademark on Oct. 7, 1969.
The Kerns hit their first pie milestone just six years after the Derby-Pie was created when they sold 1,000+ pies out of the Melrose Inn. When the family parted ways with the restaurant in 1961, production moved to the Kern’s family home where Derby-Pies were handmade three at a time using a small, five-quart KitchenAid mixer.
As the business grew, Kern’s Kitchen soon saw its 10,000th pie sold in 1977 + in 1985, baked the world’s largest Derby-Pie — which was 12 feet across — for the reopening of the Kentucky Derby Museum.
Now, the fourth-generation family business operates at 2420 Ampere Dr. off of Blankenbaker Parkway + offers a Golden Pecan Pie and mini versions of the Derby-Pie. Something special this year, Kern’s partnered with local nonprofit Kentucky to the World to offer a Kern’s Kentucky Tradition bundle which features a Derby-Pie + a deck of cards displaying 52 prominent Kentuckians.