A 6-foot-2, tattooed firefighter isn't exactly the person one imagines baking pies. Yet that's what Derek Kaplan, a college football player turned firefighter, does when he's not at the city of Miami's Fire Rescue Station 1.
"I catch a lot of people by surprise when I put a pie in front of them," says Kaplan, who owns Fireman Derek's World Famous Pies.
On most weeks, Kaplan cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for 20 guys at his station and spends any time off baking to fulfill orders and looking for new business. His father, Joel, helps with labeling, ordering and making crusts.
"I don't go out much. When friends call me and ask what I've been doing, I've been baking, but I enjoy doing it."
Kaplan, now 27, started cooking at age 14 when he moved in with his
father after his parents split up. Because his father didn't eat meat,
Kaplan had to learn to cook everything for himself; but he didn't start making desserts until six years ago.
After experimenting with several recipes, Kaplan set out to perfect his version of key lime pie. People liked it so much, he started selling pies to family and friends and later directly to local restaurants.
His offerings have grown to include pecan, chocolate pecan, chocolate banana cream, apple and coconut cream pies, as well as pumpkin pies during the holidays and blueberry pies in the summer. Short Order got a taste of the perfectly tart key lime pie, which is prepared using juice of Robert is Here key limes and a delicious homemade graham cracker crust. It was a treat as was the rich, creamy chocolate pecan pie.
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Somewhat ironically, Kaplan is diabetic, so he also sells his pies in four-ounce cups, a serving size that he says he can eat occasionally without guilt. He said he doesn't plan on making sugar-free products although at a customer's request he's experimenting with agave- and honey-sweetened pies.
If Kaplan has it his way, Fireman Derek's line of products someday will encompass other foods like chilies and sauces, or we may just see a Fireman Derek storefront somewhere in town. For now, his pies are served at La Camaronera, Slice-N-Ice, Red Koi, La Baguette, Yiya's Bakery, and festivals and markets. Check his Facebook page for information on where to find him.