Through trial and error and more trial, George Kern, who was the manager of the popular Melrose Inn in Prospect, Kentucky, developed what we now know as the chocolate and walnut Derby Pie. The creation, invented in 1950, was similar in some ways to a to pecan pie but with a delicate crust and chocolate chips and crushed walnuts. It’s almost like a delicious, giant cookie pie! If developing the pie was challenging, naming it was even more so because every member of the family had a suggestion. And every suggestion was different. So the Kern family did the only fair thing they could. They wrote every suggestion on a piece of paper and tossed the slips of paper into a hat. And that is how the pie The New York Times called “particularly delicious” got its start. Today, more than half a century later, Kern’s Kitchen sells more than 100,000 pies a year.
Even after selling the Melrose Inn in 1960, the Kern family continued to make Derby Pie for select customers. To this day, the recipe is kept secret, known only to a small group of Kern family members and a single Kern’s Kitchen employee (who actually mixes the recipe today).