Fireman Derek’s pies have become a Miami staple along with Zak the Baker bread and Panther Coffee. The eponymous pie shop was started by a local firefighter by the name of Derek Kaplan who always had a passion for baking. Kaplan started baking out of a commissary kitchen in Wynwood, long before Wynwood was even a known neighborhood. He began selling his pies through a food truck that he operated for about two and a half years. However, he noted the shortcomings of that, especially in Miami, where food truck regulations are very strict. He noted that it wasn’t an effective way to run a business and thus decided to open a brick-and-mortar shop in Wynwood..
The brick-and-mortar location was only possible because of a special investment. Pat Murdock, Kaplan’s co-worker and dear friend, always said that if he had the money, he would want to help fund Kaplan to open a bakery. When Murdock passed away, his wife Kim decided she was going to use the payout from his pension and life insurance to go into business with Kaplan. Kim dedicated herself to living out her deceased husband’s dream, and baking became an outlet for her sadness. As Thanksgiving came around, Kim and Derek were able to sell over 500 pies out of the commissary kitchen just through word-of-mouth.
Fireman Derek’s first location opened in Wynwood in June 2014. Since, the pies have spread throughout Miami, served in restaurants like Suviche, La Camaronera, and Prohibition, just to name a few. From the most famous and traditional Key Lime Pie to savory options like Chicken Pot Pie, the pies are truly delicious. All the recipes are Derek’s originals, which he has “been playing with over the years.” Kaplan favors using local ingredients and is hesitant to expand outside of Florida because he wants to be “able to produce the pies locally” and never compromise quality.
It is no surprise that the shop is already expanding, after only two years. Fireman Derek’s will be opening a new concept in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Little Haiti. Here, they will not be serving pies…Instead, the new production facility will be serving donuts, sticky buns, and coffee. Kaplan is excited to continue experimenting with different ingredients and recipes, and mentioned the idea of selling the flavors of his pies in the form of ice cream… “I can make key lime pie ice cream, or smores ice cream, by basically taking the cookies and crumbling them up… We would have a bunch of flavors that are basically inspired by what we have here.”
Kaplan appreciates Miami’s food scene and wants to stay local. He plans to open more shops throughout the city to make it more accessible, in areas like Kendall and South Miami. He champions originality and encourages those entering the Miami food scene to make things from scratch instead of cutting corners. Some other advice he provides us with is to be humble and be willing to work with people; despite how talented you may be, you can always learn from the people you work with.
Kaplan is also fond of restaurants that provide consistency, where “you can always get a quality meal and you always know exactly what you’re getting.” His favorite restaurants in Miami that he thinks are of best-quality are”
- Capital Grille for a good steak
- Lime for the steak and queso tacos
- Taco Rico for good Tex-Mex
- Garcia’s for seafood
- Doggi’s for Venezuelan food