The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine raises $100,000 to fight hunger
Emily French is the owner and chef of The Lost Kitchen, a notable restaurant in Freedom, ME, a couple of miles down the road from where she grew up.
Growing up in rural Maine, she couldn’t wait to get out of town. Now, she back — isn’t she ever!
Small towns can be difficult. Chef Erin explained in her new book, Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch, how some people feel like it’s an uphill battle to do things you’re proud of living in a small town. The point Emily tries to make in her book is that anything is possible.
Her book is currently a #1 New York Times bestseller on Amazon right now.
French has made it her mission to hire an all-female staff helping to create beautiful dishes from locally grown ingredients. Unlike others, her restaurant opened in 2014, is located in a 19th century repurposed mill, and only accepts reservations from mailed-in postcards.
Before her hard work and dedication to building one of Maine's most popular restaurants, she worked for private supper clubs in several locations.
Erin French, the owner and Chief Chef
French wasn’t always a world-renowned chef; she was once a struggling, clinically depressed, pill-addicted single mother who divorced an abusive ex-husband. She never hid her struggles and put her memories on paper, creating her book, which she says proved therapeutic.
She has proceeded to turn her story into a documentary that is now streaming on Discovery+. In the documentary, she discusses how difficult it was to adapt to the pandemic where indoor dining wasn’t a reality. At first, it was challenging to get motivated to go into her restaurant. It seemed pointless. She worked with her staff to create an order-out restaurant for customers.
The Lost Kitchen’s Erin French Shares 3 of Her Recipes | TODAY
“Erin French, the mastermind chef behind the popular Maine eatery The Lost Kitchen, joins TODAY to share a few recipes out of her cookbook of the same name.”
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The anti-hunger coalition
Erin French has also helped establish an anti-hunger coalition. In its first year, the fundraiser raised $100,000.
At first, despite very few donations and little to no attention, she remained optimistic. Then in one 24-hour timeframe, the donations far exceeded those previously received. Chef Erin and the staff are now excited about how many donations have poured in.
French cut a check to the Waldo County Bounty (check out their Facebook page here.), which was formed at the start of the pandemic for anti-hunger among family. Volunteers run the entire program. What’s more crucial to the local economy is the organization uses food and produce purchased locally from farmers and gardeners.
You can donate to the Waldo County Bounty and the Unity Barn Raisers, “501c3 nonprofit organization,” to help fight hunger.
Finding Maine's Lost Kitchen, one postcard at a time
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Chef Erin’s mission
Her mission was to create a unique dining option for her customers that they would consider extraordinary. This is not your average restaurant in Freedom, ME.
Not everyone gets the chance to dine at this fantastic restaurant. You have to enter into a drawing to get an invitation. Although it doesn’t affect the reservation process or help you get a reservation, customers are asked to donate a dollar or two for the anti-hunger coalition.
Even a massive donation doesn’t guarantee a reservation, but after filling out the postcard for the drawing, your card will be entered to receive a reservation at the restaurant. With over 20,000 postcards received each year, they couldn’t keep up with the reservations.
If chosen for a reservation, someone from the restaurant will reach out by phone or email regarding the best time that works for you and your party. If someone has to cancel, they pull another postcard. Therefore, it’s important not to lose hope if you’re not selected.
The restaurant will not disappoint; keeping an open mind and an enormous appetite when you arrive is essential as no dinner is the same. Chef Erin says the dinner menu is “driven by the season, availability, and weather.” The food is delicious, held to a high standard, and the personality of Erin French brings a top-notch experience you certainly won’t forget.
Any restaurant in Maine that can demand more than $100 per plate, and can’t keep up with reservations, must be something special.
Maureen G. from Trip Advisor, says, “We went there for our anniversary. The hostess/owner and staff put on a show worthy of a 5-star TV cooking show. First time in our lives that we tasted food that felt as if it had been loved! (As organic farmers ourselves that is a pretty special experience.)
You have to experience this little restaurant to understand why it's so special. I hope they continue doing this for a very long time. Words cannot fully capture the special touches, the ambience and the food.”
The People Magazine article, How to Get a Reservation at the Lost Kitchen, One of the Hardest-to-Book Restaurants in America. By Ana Calderone dated 9 April 2021.
The Portland Press Herald article, What are the odds of a seat at the Lost Kitchen? Still slim.
The Bangor Daily News article, New book and TV series brings Lost Kitchen owner’s intimate moments to light. By Abigail Burnham dated 6 April 2021.
The Lost Kitchen: Freedom, Maine Trip Advisor Reviews.