Derby-Pie is said to have been created by the Kern Family in 1950 as the signature item for their restaurant, the Melrose Inn. He says Grandma Kern started out baking three pies at a time, leaving them on the windowsill to cool. In 1960, the Kerns closed the Melrose Inn but kept the pie business.
Ask anyone in Louisville, Ky., what to eat and drink during the Kentucky Derby, and chances are good they’ll tell you two things: mint juleps and “derby pie.”
For 24 years, Susan Fouts was a hostess at the Science Hill Inn, a restaurant in Shelbyville, Ky., outside of Louisville. Fouts says she and her co-workers served lots of what they called “derby pie,” until one day when Science Hill received a cease-and-desist letter in the mail. The letter said that the name “Derby-Pie®” was a federally registered trademark of Kern’s Kitchen in Louisville.
“We were threatened,” says Fouts. “And we never, never mentioned ‘derby pie’ again.”
What’s commonly call a derby pie is like an embellished pecan pie: sticky, sweet filling made with bourbon and chocolate chips, covered by a hard nut top and a pastry crust. Ironically, Kern’s recipe is made without bourbon, and it uses walnuts instead of pecans. Derby-Pie® is said to have been created by the Kern Family in 1950 as the signature item for their restaurant, the Melrose Inn.
Not everyone backed down as easily as Science Hill did. Rick Paul has been managing the White Light Diner in Frankfort, Ky., since 1991, and he’s been sued twice by Kern’s Kitchen. When I asked how long he’s been making derby pie, he was quick to correct me.
“I don’t make a pie that I call derby pie,” he says. “I make a Kentucky Bourbon Pie.”