Finding Freedom in the Lost Kitchen, Maine, Freedom Erin French On Her Unique Path To Becoming A Restaurateur

Maine now, erin french owns one of the hardest to book. Restaurants in the country trust me, i’ve tried, it’s called the lost kitchen located in the town’s old grist mill less than two miles down the road, but her path from one to the other wasn’t. Quite so direct as she explains in a six part series about a restaurant on the magnolia network, which was named one of the best places in the world by time magazine after spending years trying to get away from my small hometown of freedom maine. I not only came back to live. I opened a restaurant there’s, a lot of people they’re all outside. Are we ready my kitchen family and i had no formal training, no idea what was going to happen, but we trusted that everything we needed was right here and it was in a new memoir. The restaurant tour cook don’t call her chef and james beard award nominee. Dives deeper into the obstacle laden pass. She traveled one. Many readers will likely relate to it’s called finding freedom, a cook story, remaking a life from scratch. Erin french joins me now erin good to meet you congratulations on the book. Hi jim! Thank you so much. You know most people who watch this show know. I i don’t like to reveal anything about myself, including what i had for lunch. You and your book reveal everything from a tough father, a sadistic first husband, a drug habit, thoughts of suicide, the loss of absolutely everything.

I don’t know if i left anything out: why did you decide to share such intimate details of your life with people you don’t know part of it for me was cathartic and putting it down and being able to forgive myself in that way, but part of it Was also that i recognized in some of those moments that were so dark and so deep. They were so lonely and when i was feeling that lonely, it felt hopeless. And so my hope was that if i could share my story and if you look now – and you thought look at look at this girl who’s running one of the hardest restaurants to get in in the in the country. How is that possible? I want you to know that it’s possible. I want. I wrote that for that person who needed that strength to get through a hard moment. Well, you know what i hope. People who haven’t read the book yet and i hope they will don’t think when i use the adjective sadistic to mention your to describe your first husband i was being hyperbolic. This is a guy who urged you to go to rehab for your drug problem, not because it turns out he wanted you to get better, but so that you’d be out of the way so that he could take everything from you, including your son, correct, yeah that’s. My feeling yeah um, it came as a surprise, and, and it was a very challenging time you write – that logic is the death of dreams.

I love that line. Where do you conjure up the whatever to be able to put logic aside and chase dreams? How does one do that erin, um, sometimes it’s, adrenaline and dreams – do give me adrenaline that pushes me sometimes to do things that seem impossible or crazy, and if, if i would stop long enough to think about the actual reality, maybe i would have put a pause On dreams that i had actually had, but there was something about just digging, deep and and driving forward, and just believing in yourself in those dreams to make them happen. You know there. I should be clear, there’s a lot of joy in this book too, especially when you’re talking about your son or when you’re constantly talking about food. Can you share with us a memory or two from when you were a little kid working at your father’s diner? What are the things that are most like sort of emblazoned on your brain? There probably the smell of the griddle and the smell of the home fries and the onions and the sound of the pancakes as they would splat, was one of my biggest memories and the vision of my grandfather fiddling around in the fria. Later i have a lot of very luscious diner memories and it’s still it’s still strangely the food that i love to eat today. How great was the meatloaf was the meatloaf anywhere close to as great as you described it? The meatloaf is beyond what you could ever imagine there’s, something about it: it’s, just sugary and sweet and meaty and comforting in all the right ways, and all of that just is described in great detail.

So it’s been 13 months in this pandemic. Have you survived we’re? Doing okay here uh there was something that happened when the pandemic hit. It was like. Here you go again. The rug has been taken out from not just me from all of us, so it was comforting to know that i wasn’t alone but um. I i i felt like i had a little bit of practice in this, that i had fallen down a few times before, and that’s kind of like life, we’ll, tumble and we’ll have these roadblocks and sometimes it’s about what you do with it and how you keep Pulling yourself up so this was another example of that and i i really found it’s crazy. You know you hear these stories of people who, who built something bigger and better out of these wild pandemic moments and there’s, something to be said for those hard moments that really give you that friction and the adrenaline to do something great. Do you have an expected date when your restaurant reopens, like it once, was well we’re, not putting any pressure on the dining room per se? At this point, i think we’ll know when it feels right and when it feels safe but um. One thing that i did really realize is that the walls don’t matter that we can have beautiful outdoor dinners and we can still reinvent ourselves in other ways, so we’re just waiting until the grass gets green here, which is probably like still four months away in maine.

But um yeah we’re, looking forward to some outdoor dinners until we can safely get back into the dining room and feel feel that we can welcome people. You know erin for the few people view watching who don’t know how you i was going to say, make a reservation that’s a misnomer attempt to make a reservation. Explain the how the poll postcard thing works. So we do reservations by postcard and i know that sounds a little wild, but it really started as a way to slow things down here, because when we started to become popular and the phones started ringing off the hook, we couldn’t keep up with it. We couldn’t listen to the garbled messages and try to figure out what the phone number said and what person was calling and we were never going to be able to seat everyone that wanted to come to dinner here, and we realized that. So we turned it into a lottery, something where people could have a little fun make their own postcards, send their own contact information. So we didn’t have to listen to those garbled messages and that people could get involved and also help out with our sleepy post office and it’s really made for connection. We get to connect with our guests before they’ve even arrived, we’d get little snippets of them and a feeling before they’ve even stepped foot to the door, and how many days does it take you to fill every single seat for every single open day for the whole Year, oh gosh, um, well, let’s see we pull about just over a thousand postcards a year that’s how many tables we have.

So it was about a thousand postcards and over the past few years, we’ve received about 20 000 postcards a year, so that’s that’s the math on that. Do you are you able to step back from what you’ve done and what you’ve achieved to understand or to be able to describe to the rest of us why this thing has been such a huge success? Do you know why um part of it mystifies me because i don’t have any professional training? I grew up cooking at my dad’s diner. I taught myself a lot through catering and some other culinary just places where i pushed myself into and so for a while. I kept thinking like. Why is why are people coming here? How did this become a destination restaurant because that’s not what i planned? I thought it was going to be a quiet cafe in the middle of nowhere and hope that people might show up for a good cup of coffee. But i really think what it is is it’s the power of food and love, because we put a lot of energy into really good ingredients and it’s our team. We have run by all women and none of us have any formal training and it’s what we show up with every day and what we bring to the table and making that experience that’s more than just about food it’s, a feeling and every little detail. That goes into it more than just the dish.

It’S a it’s, a complete evening. You know uh in your acknowledgments. At the end of the book you mentioned. Obviously everybody will help get you there. Most people help get you there. Your mother, who has been there at every single turn your life when you needed her and your father is your last acknowledgment, a guy who was tough, not big on the hugs or the expressions of love or showing of pride, and you say there something like well. He taught me everything about cooking and i’m, not sure where i’d be without him. You also say he may never read this book. Does it matter to you if he reads the book it wouldn’t hurt my feelings i and that’s part of the acceptance that maybe you can see, and i don’t want to spoil anything. But the last page of the book is that sort of understanding of that i’m. Okay, just who i am and you can’t change, other people, you can’t change the way they behave the way they make you feel and there there comes a point when you’re just like okay, this is who this person is i’m connected to them for life and and How do we, how do we move forward and he was tough on me, but he also made me tough on myself – and i wouldn’t be here today without those imperfect moments that that i had with my dad in my childhood it’s a lot of shaping.

Let me just tell you if, if the food is one half as good as the book, you are really on to something or in french it’s great to meet. You congratulations on the book and good luck with the year ahead. Thank you.

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Finding Freedom in the Lost Kitchen, Maine, Freedom An acclaimed Maine chef writes about a life of dizzying highs and dreadful lows

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