01/07/2015 2:32PM

Keeneland takes over Turf Catering food business


Keeneland foodies, don’t panic: Even though Keeneland has bought out the local division of Turf Catering, its food supplier and preparer since the opening of the track in 1936, the recipes for its signature dishes, including its bread pudding and burgoo, will remain in the hands of the track’s kitchen staff.

Keeneland reached the agreement to buy the assets of Turf Catering’s Keeneland division only recently, according to Mike Wolken, the general manager of the Keeneland operation, though the buyout was years in the making. The agreement, which will become effective Jan. 31, was first reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The Wolken family founded Turf Catering in the 1920s in Chicago, with Hawthorne as its first client. Mike Wolken is the third generation of the family to run the Keeneland operation.

“It’s part of the evolutionary process for us,” said Wolken, 60, on Wednesday. “We don’t have any children who are interested in keeping the business going.”

Wolken said the buyout included “all of the equipment, know-how, and recipes” of Turf Catering’s Keeneland division. He said the buyout is not expected to lead to any layoffs.

“The only thing that will change is that we aren’t going to be a part of it anymore,” Wolken said.

Keeneland officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Keeneland’s bread pudding, glazed in a Maker’s Mark bourbon sauce, is widely considered one of the best in the state, if not the country. Its burgoo, a blue-collar stew that was once a staple of Kentucky cuisine, also is given high marks by regulars.

Turf Catering also ran the food service in the track kitchen, a popular hangout for backstretch employees and racegoers in the know. The menu at the track kitchen will not change.