October 27, 2023
Erin French, a self-taught chef and four-time James Beard Award semifinalist, has come a long way from her humble beginnings in her family's diner. After hitting rock bottom and losing everything, French rebuilt her life and opened the Lost Kitchen in her hometown of Freedom, Maine. This 40-seat restaurant, located in a renovated mill, serves simple dishes made from locally sourced ingredients. The Lost Kitchen gained popularity through word-of-mouth recommendations and good press, leading to an overwhelming demand for reservations. French now operates a lottery system and only accepts reservation requests via postcard.
French's talent and dedication have earned her recognition in the culinary world. She has been a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award four times and is the subject of a Magnolia Network series called The Lost Kitchen. Additionally, French has released a new cookbook, Big Heart, Little Stove, which not only provides recipes but also emphasizes the small touches that make a meal feel special.
French's day starts with a leisurely hour in bed, catching up on the news and solving the New York Times spelling bee. She then tends to her chickens and edible flower gardens, which provide ingredients for the restaurant. By 8 a.m., she arrives at the Lost Kitchen to prepare for the busy weekend dinners. The intense work schedule culminates in two 17-hour days, followed by a much-needed day of rest.
As a chef, French often finds it challenging to prioritize her own meals. She relies on coffee to keep her going throughout the day and snacks intermittently. However, she has learned the importance of sitting down for a proper meal, even if it means delaying it by a day or two. After a long day of service, French indulges in organic microwave dinners, ensuring that she maintains a healthy diet. She acknowledges her lack of formal culinary training but takes pride in the way she creates a welcoming atmosphere at the restaurant.
French initially felt insecure about her lack of culinary training, but she embraced the opportunity to trust her intuition and discover her own style of cooking. She admits to having self-doubt, which she believes is essential for personal growth and improvement. Early on, she read online reviews of her restaurant, using constructive criticism to enhance her skills. However, she has since made a conscious decision to avoid reading such reviews, focusing instead on her own vision and goals.
Despite the overwhelming demand for her restaurant, French has made a deliberate choice not to expand her business. She believes that maintaining the intimate size of the Lost Kitchen preserves its unique charm and magic. French values her own happiness and quality of life over rapid growth and success.
French acknowledges the sacrifices she made for her career, including missing out on moments with her son. However, she has now prioritized family time and dedicates Sundays to spending quality time together. French's husband and son play an active role in maintaining their household, providing support and understanding for her demanding schedule. The close-knit team at the restaurant also extends their friendship beyond work, offering assistance and encouragement.
Erin French's journey from adversity to success is a testament to her resilience and passion for cooking. Through hard work and determination, she has built a renowned restaurant while staying true to her values. French's story serves as an inspiration to aspiring chefs and entrepreneurs, reminding them to trust their instincts, embrace self-doubt as a catalyst for growth, and prioritize what truly matters in life.
Aishwarya Nair, dubbed "Lotto Lorekeeper" at LottoRanker, harnesses her meticulous research skills and cultural depth from Kerala, India, to shed light on global lottery phenomena. Equipped with a keen sense of detail and a penchant for data, she delves deep into the lottery world, unveiling hidden gems and trending patterns.