Secrets of The Lost Kitchen

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Inside a refurbished hydro-powered grist mill in Freedom, Maine - a town roughly halfway between Augusta and Bangor - you'll find The Lost Kitchen, a restaurant that seats forty-people four days a week for dinner service eight months out of the year. The menu is changed each day, to explore new options while keeping up with subtle changes in season and supply. When reservations open in April, the restaurant is able to fill all the tables from May until New Year's Eve in less than a day. Most, if not all, of the cooks and servers are women, and many are farmers who supply the restaurant with fresh foods while working a second shift. On the way to the dining room, guests can purchase a bottle from the wine shop downstairs, due to Freedom's law that bans the sale of alcohol in restaurants. Against all odds, this little lost kitchen found its place in the world, and has been thriving ever since opening day, even being named one of Time magazine's "Twelve Restaurants Worth Traveling Around the World to Experience," by Bloomberg and featured in articles by The New York Times. And recently, owner and chef Erin French has decided to tell her story about how she overcame the challenges and struggles she faced in her life, and remade her life from scratch to led her to the place she was always meant to be.

Erin developed a love of food from a very young age, and found herself back in the town of Freedom, Maine more times than she could count. The town always seemed to allow her to evaluate her life and make the appropriate changes to reset and start over from square one. Coming back after dropping out of college to take care of a newborn son as a single mother, coming back after ridding herself of an addiction to pills to figure out how to prove herself to the custody court, and coming right back to the mill she had been warned to stay away from all through childhood, to people who gave her a second chance and allowed her to finally build the life she had always wanted for her and her son. Her story was heartbreaking and beautiful and even though I knew how the story ended I was rooting for Erin every step of the way, for her to get back on her feet. I have to highlight her sincerity and vulnerability throughout the memoir, as she doesn't shy away from bringing the reader along with her through the darkest moments of her life - addiction, rehab, losing insurance, and even having to rely on everyone around her just to make it day by day. Even at her lowest, Erin had enough love for her son and for food to carry her through, and the confidence to convince others to give her at least half a chance to prove that she was capable of being a great chef and an even better parent. And throughout the book, we had the chance to explore Erin's mind and hear her gush about new recipes she'd wanted to try, how good to felt to have people in her space enjoying something she had created - her passion for food and being in the kitchen shines through every page.

In her acknowledgements, Erin French says that writing this book was one of the most challenging things she's ever done, to relive all the painful times and put those words to paper. But she hopes that those words will give some readers hope and strength to carry on, through all the hardships and challenges of their own lives. While I definitely could have gotten by without reading a detailed description of a chicken slaughtering in Chapter 26, I found Finding Freedom to be an incredible moving memoir, full of hope and a woman who truly had to rebuild her life, but, once on more stable ground, rose up from the ashes to become even better. *Thank you to BookishFirst and the publisher, Celadon Books, for the early copy, all thoughts and opinions are my own.*