Louis Kirchhoff – He’s No GARDEN VARIETY Baker

louisKirchhoff_headshotIf there is any question about the artisanal quality of the bread coming out of the Kirchhoff Bakery’s ovens, you need only peruse the vintage photos which hang from the classic brick walls of the current 21st century establishment. Louis Kirchhoff and his daughter, Ginny, hail from a hearty line of bread makers that reaches back to Paducah’s earliest economy. Franz (Frank) Kirchhoff, a Prussian immigrant, opened a bakery just a few blocks from the rolling waters of the Ohio River in 1873. His son, Frank, would later take over the business and his grandson, Louis, would, upon the insistence of his children, eventually open the ovens once again in 1997.

“It was actually the kids that inspired the re-opening of the business. My son and daughter had graduated from college and when I asked them what they had in mind for the future, they both looked at me and said, ‘Actually, we’d like to open Kirchhoff’s Bakery.”

The original business closed in 1957 and even though Louis had greatly enjoyed working with his father and grand- father as a young boy, upon his graduation with an engineer- ing degree from Vanderbilt, he found greater inspiration in the world of business and industry. Louis worked for CSI for 14 years and Petter Supply for 10 years before he created his own consulting company. But in 1997, it was all that dough that lured him back into a business he and his children cooked up. Kirchhoff’s Bakery was on the rise again.

“It took some courage,” Louis says of the decision. “There was very little going on down here in the Market House area at the time. We looked at sites in more busy retail locations but Ginny was the one who said, ‘This is where we need to be.’ We are now baking and living in the exact same spot that my great-grandfather baked and lived in. That’s really special to all of us.”

Using old world methods and proven family recipes, Kirchhoff’s became the leading regional bakery during the eight decades it was in business. In 1952, however, a devastat- ing fire halted the business and led to the retirement of “Big Louie.” Afterwards, a group of employees restored and maintained the business until 1957, at which time Kirchhoff’s.

“It was actually the kids that inspired the re-opening of the business. My son and daughter had graduated from college and when I asked them what they had in mind for the future, they both looked at me and said, ‘Actually, we’d like to open Kirchhoff’s Bakery.”

The original business closed in 1957 and even though Louis had greatly enjoyed working with his father and grand- father as a young boy, upon his graduation with an engineer- ing degree from Vanderbilt, he found greater inspiration in the world of business and industry. Louis worked for CSI for 14 years and Petter Supply for 10 years before he created his own consulting company. But in 1997, it was all that dough that lured him back into a business he and his children cooked up. Kirchhoff’s Bakery was on the rise again.

“It took some courage,” Louis says of the decision. “There was very little going on down here in the Market House area at the time. We looked at sites in more busy retail locations but Ginny was the one who said, ‘This is where we need to be.’ We are now baking and living in the exact same spot that my great-grandfather baked and lived in. That’s really special to all of us.”

Using old world methods and proven family recipes, Kirchhoff’s became the leading regional bakery during the eight decades it was in business. In 1952, however, a devastating fire halted the business and led to the retirement of “Big Louie.” Afterwards, a group of employees restored and maintained the business until 1957, at which time Kirchhoff’s bread routes were purchased by Bunny Bread, and the property was sold to Petter Supply for warehouse space.

louisKirchhoff_BBQQuesadillaForty years later, great-great-granddaughter Ginny procured a baking and pastry arts degree from Sullivan in Louisville and soon thereafter construction was underway for the resurrection of an original landmark business. Reminders of the Kirchhoff bloodline are built into the structure from the original flour barrels and the post-1937 hardwood floors to the framed declaration papers from Franz’s entrance into the US via the Port of New Orleans. “I feel like I’m surrounded by good vibes . . . I come in here and I just feel at home,” says Ginny Kirchhoff.

That comes naturally from a long line of bread bakers and cooks, a task which Louis hasn’t retired from even though he’s not in the kitchen as much as he once was. “I’ve always loved to cook and experiment with recipes and flavors. It took me two years to perfect our salt rising bread. I finally realized that some of the problem was the difference in today’s raw materials, like the flour and the corn meal. The ingredients today are so processed that they don’t perform the same way as in my dad’s day. But I finally found a corn meal that was more pure and produced a more original taste.”

One of the things Louis finds locally that does work the same as in days gone by, is the down-home, personal service he experiences at Paducah Bank. “These are Paducah people, working to keep their focus on Paducah’s businesses and relationships with those of us who are dedicated to living and working in this community.”

And that sense of community is what lives and breathes throughout the downstairs baking operations and upstairs in Louis Kirchhoff’s personal kitchen. “I’ve been cooking all my life,” he says, “We know a number of people who enjoy cooking and we get together and cook different meals. It’s very relaxing for me.”

For example, Louis and former college co-hort, David Reed, stir up some award winning barbecue together. References to “whole hog royalty” and “rib kings” in the bakery are testaments to the duo’s saucy success during local cook-offs and festivals.

Louis’s kitchen is the perfect marriage of old and new. The finest polished chrome appliances wait upon a collection of hundreds of cookbooks, some going back more than 80 years. In fact, his collection of cookbooks holds a treasure trove of Paducah memorabilia. There’s a 1916 collection of recipes form the First Christian Church and a book produced by the Broadway Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1934.

Whether it’s leg of lamb stuffed with spinach, asparagus with horseradish sauce, roasted new potatoes or a sweet potato soup . . . well you get the picture.

“I’m just your garden variety cook,” Louis says. Maybe we should make that garden variety gourmet!