How Erin French Transformed a Small Maine Town into a Culinary Destination (published 2017) (2023)


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The Lost Kitchen13 PhotosView Slideshow ›

Stacey Cramp for the New York Times

ThroughTejal Rao

FREEDOM, i. "In the middle of dinner at their restaurant,The Lost Kitchen, Chef Erin French likes to hang out and chat with the crowd like she's toasting at a party.

"It's July in Maine," she said the other night, raising a sweaty glass of rose wine. "How happy are we?"

The occupants of the dining room applauded; July meant long sunny days with cherries and elderflowers, peas and creamy new potatoes, small and misshapen like freshwater pearls.

Woman. French went through his menu and jotted it down like a memory. Today's main course was lamb, not because it was part of her plan, she explained happily, but because the swordfish she ordered never came and the angry phone calls she'd made had gotten her nowhere. Then Mrs. French did what he always did: he jumped from one disaster to something else, something he hadn't planned.

Dining at Lost Kitchen is an occasion, and most restaurants of this caliber work to maintain the illusion of effortless perfection. Woman. French, 36, has built a cult following with her own approach - open, intimate and personal.

in onehydroelectric power stationIn Freedom, a town halfway between Augusta and Bangor, she cooks a set dinner for 40 four nights a week and adjusts the menu each day to keep up with subtle changes in season and supply.

When reservations opened in April, French received thousands of calls asking for tables, clogging the phone line and answering machine. The restaurant is open eight months a year, and she filled the bills from May to New Year's Eve in just one day.


How Erin French Transformed a Small Maine Town into a Culinary Destination (published 2017) (2)

"People told me I was crazy that this restaurant would never work," she said.

Despite their success, they still do it. With a polite smile, French brushes off questions and advice from those who think his small restaurant in rural Maine should work a certain way.

Has she considered staying open longer, more days of the week, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Couldn't the dining room accommodate at least a dozen more seats? And wouldn't online confirmations be more efficient than a phone call from your mother?

A man sent French what he thought was a better business plan, perhaps unaware that she was already running her business exactly the way she liked it.

"You peak when you do too much," said French, who published her first cookbook, "The Lost Kitchen: Recipes and the Good Life in Freedom, Maine" in May. She said she's not keeping the business small for exclusivity, but for convenience: "That's how I want it to be in someone's home."

Most of Mrs. French are close friends and they are all female, a rarity in the industry. Even rarer, many of them are also farmers, producers of traditional tomatoes and organic blueberries, who work part-time in the restaurant.

The team thrives without the stereotypes associated with high-pressure kitchens, and key decisions are made as a group, such as: B. Equal pay for cooks and waiters and tips for the pool.

"Everything about the way this place is set up is designed to be low stress," said Ashley Savage, a server that runs the site.Blumenfarm in Knoxthat sweet peas grew in the dining room. Another server, Maia Campoamor, has oneBio solar operationin West Montville, with orchards and greenhouses full of vegetables. A third, Meghan Flynn, is a potter; She made the restaurant's eggshell colored plates and bowlsher studioin Lincolnville.

BildHow Erin French Transformed a Small Maine Town into a Culinary Destination (published 2017) (3)

Freedom has Prohibition-era laws banning the sale of liquor in restaurants, so French's mother, Deanna Richardson, runs a downstairs wine shop where people can buy bottles on the way to the restaurant. She also greets people as they enter, wearing a slate gray linen apron, her hair tied back in a low bun.

In the open kitchen upstairs, Mrs. French says a quick hello before settling into the service groove with his two chefs, brushing fried green tomatoes with buttermilk and flowering herbs, pouring chilled butternut squash soup over lemon-garlic pesto and dozens of Sear the steaks on the cast-iron skewer with hot fat.

A giddy diner approaches with a copy of Mrs. French. "Erin, would you sign?"

Woman. Growing up in Freedom, French never expected his hometown of under 1,000 to become a foodie destination. As a teenager, she played soccer, listened to Björk, and rolled burgers at her family's diner.

She later worked in gastronomy and bars and started cooking in her early 20s. With her newborn son Jaim strapped to her chest in the stroller, Mrs. has French roll pastry for pecan pies and buttercream for carrot pies. She delivered the orders while he slept in the car seat.

Woman. French sought out culinary school but was put off by the expense. Instead, she cooked more at home and with more ambition. She married and opened a supper club from her flat in nearby Belfast.

Calling it the Lost Kitchen, she worked there on the first drafts of her precise and no-nonsense cuisine, often topped with edible flowers and pickled shallots. Woman. French reimagined a classic salade niçoise into a dish that made sense in Maine, serving up buttered halibut with a poached egg and a warm vegetable salad. And she mashed local vegetables with fresh buttermilk and lemon juice to make soups with nicely controlled acidity.

Using only a few ingredients to prepare each dish, she worked simply, with no special equipment, following service tips from fine restaurants and dinners at friends'.

Woman. French soon opened a restaurant of the same name on the ground floor. But just as she was succeeding, her marriage fell apart.

"If you want to figure out where all the flaws in your relationship are, open a restaurant," she said, "and watch it implode."

Stress has affected your mental health. She suffered from anxiety and depression and became addicted to the pills she was prescribed to control them. Woman. French went to rehab to get clean, and she did. When she returned home to Belfast two weeks later, she was struck by the aftermath of her divorce: locks had been replaced, her staff fired and her restaurant closed. It wasn't hers anymore.

"Just like that," she said, "I lost everything."

Woman. French moved into an Airstream trailer, which she occasionally refers to as a divorce van, and parked it in her parents' yard for a while. She was paralyzed by a sense of failure, misery, and anger, but only temporarily.

When Mrs. French was a little girl, she was warned to stay away from the corn mill in Freedom. It was dilapidated, spray-painted, littered with decades of bloated junk. It looked like it could fall apart at any moment.

But the factory was restored to new splendor by a new owner, just as Mrs. French was ready for her own second chance. She built the Lost Kitchen into it and when it opened in the summer of 2014, many of the chefs and waiters who had worked with her in Belfast were ready to come back too.

"I don't know how to explain it," French said, "but this place is our fuel."

One of French's outstanding qualities as a chef is the immediacy with which she responds to change - an immediacy she brings to her menus every day.


The elder tree behind the mill only blooms for a week in July. The moment French sees the elderflowers from the dining room window, she scales the sidewalk fence, scrambles down the rocks, and cuts down as many as she can carry.

She batters and roasts the flowers into thin, sweet donuts dusted with powdered sugar. Or she soaks them in syrup to pour over warm lemon cakes. She serves the cake thickly topped with whipped cream, semifreddo and Mrs. Flynn's cherries, drizzled with honey. After dessert, people stagger out and some stop to say goodbye to Mrs. French.

When all the tables are empty, Mrs. French goes home to an old farmhouse a mile from the mill where he lives with 14 chickens and a dog named Penny. Jaim, now a teenager, divides his time between his parents and when he has time with Mrs French, they walk together behind the house to swim in the trout pond and make fires in a rock-lined pit on the lawn where they beat until dry.

On the way back to work in the morning, Mrs. French usually let the chickens out to feast on the bug buffet. But the next day she spotted a hawk in the sky. Although Mrs. French wasn't sure if she was out hunting, she had already lost a few birds to predators and was considering keeping them indoors, safe from harm.

She quickly reconsidered. There was nothing better than being safe from danger, not really. And stay inside? That was no way to live.

"Good morning girls," said Mrs. French, sliding the lid off the chicken coop door. "Careful out there, okay? Be careful, but go, go, go!

Revenues:Alabote Bom|Chilled Golden Beetroot Buttermilk Soup

And to drink ...

The dominant aroma of this Niçoise variant is not the fish itself. It comes from the surrounding Mediterranean chorus of olives, lemons, anchovies, garlic and tomatoes; Potatoes, sole, lettuce and egg are just a gentle backdrop. These Mediterranean flavors suggest the classic Provençal solution: a good dry rosé of which there is no shortage of moderately priced examples. For a little more money there are rosés from Bandol or Cassis, or darker, more unique specimens likeSchloss SimoneorClos Cibonne, it would be delicious. You can taste a rosé anywhere, as long as it's dry and relatively light.

Other alternatives? Dry, full-bodied white wines would be fine unless the oak flavors are overt. Dry stars too. But I would avoid the red ones.ERIC ASIMOV

Siga or NYT Food no Facebook,Instagram,TwitterePinterest.Receive regular NYT Cooking updates with recipe suggestions, cooking tips and shopping tips.


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How much do The Lost Kitchen staff get paid? ›

Average The Lost Cajun Kitchen Team Member hourly pay in the United States is approximately $9.95, which is 25% below the national average.

Why did Erin French name her restaurant The Lost Kitchen? ›

The Lost Kitchen has many meanings for Erin French. It's the name of her restaurant, the title of her first cookbook, and an apt description for the path she's chosen. Growing up in the small town of Freedom, Maine (population 719), French worked in her family's diner.

Who is Erin French's ex husband? ›

Who was Erin's first husband? Erin's first husband, Tom French, is a professional boatbuilder. He and Erin were married from 2006 until 2013; in late 2011, the former couple opened up the first Lost Kitchen.

How long has The Lost Kitchen in Maine been open? ›

The restaurant opened quietly in 2017 but news of it spread, and customers now come from many miles away. Chef Erin French, who is entirely self-taught, creates unfussy, astonishingly delicious food using as few ingredients as possible in combinations that are both exciting and viscerally satisfying.

How many seatings does The Lost Kitchen have? ›

“No one grows celery around here,” the chef and owner tells the 48 diners seated inside the old mill building in this tiny town.

How much is dinner at The Lost Kitchen? ›

A fixed-price meal is $195, and that's before drinks or tips. But what's more daunting than the price of your meal may be the wait to even get a seat at the table. People all over the world clamor for a chance to dine there.

Does The Lost Kitchen still exist? ›

The Lost Kitchen is in Freedom, ME.

Our petite shop is open at the mill ALL summer! Come visit us in Freedom!

What nationality is Erin French? ›

Erin French is an American chef. She is the owner of The Lost Kitchen, a renowned 40-seat restaurant in Freedom, Maine. She was a semifinalist for James Beard Award for Best Chefs in America in 2016, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

What is Todd French net worth? ›

"My net worth is well in excess of $1 million now," said Todd French, a professional cellist and owner of String Works, a company that makes cellos, violins and violas.

Did Erin French marry Todd French? ›

By then, she was a college dropout getting by on waitressing, bartending, and catering gigs. She'd been married since 2006 to a Belfast boatbuilder, Todd French, and the two were living in Belfast, raising her eight-year-old son from a previous relationship.

Is Erin still married? ›

Erin Jill Andrews (born May 4, 1978) is an American sportscaster, television personality, and actress. She rose to prominence as a correspondent on the American cable sports channel ESPN after joining the network in 2004.
Erin Andrews
SpouseJarret Stoll ​ ( m. 2017)​
6 more rows

What does Michael Dutton do for a living? ›

He is the Co-Founder of 6ccMedia, a content strategy and production company. He is also the Media Advisor to Chef Erin French and her brand, The Lost Kitchen. He transformed her story into a 6-episode series launching on the Magnolia Network.

Who owns the Lost Kitchen restaurant? ›

Erin French, head chef and owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine.

Who owns the Lost Kitchen in Maine? ›

By the time Erin French welcomes guests – 50 of them, twice a week – to her Lost Kitchen restaurant, they've been sipping and sampling for two hours already – and they haven't even gotten to what's on the menu yet. "I just wanted to pause a moment and welcome you all," French told her guests.

How do I get a seat at the lost kitchen? ›

Guests must make a donation through the restaurant's website to receive information on where to mail reservation requests for the exclusive restaurant. In order to get the information, fans must donate to the PFAS Emergency Relief Fund through the Lost Kitchen website.

How many does Hell's Kitchen seat? ›

Located in front of Caesars Palace, the restaurant seats more than 300 guests including two chef's tables, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the famous Las Vegas Strip, red and blue design details in the show kitchen, a private dining room and a contemporary bar serving the latest trends in mixology.

How many people work at the Lost Kitchen? ›

The Lost Kitchen has an estimated 425 employees and an estimated annual revenue of 35.4M....

Why do they call it the lost kitchen? ›

It was hugely popular, with friends and eventually strangers jockeying for a place at the table. A year later, in the space below that apartment, French opened a restaurant she called the Lost Kitchen. There were no signs, and patrons had to search for the door.

How much does a bottle of wine cost at The Lost Kitchen? ›

Prices for the wine were quite reasonable–starting at about $30 per bottle. The entire meal lasted about 3 hours. We were promised a 4-course dinner, but it ended up being 8 courses.

How much does a Gordon Ramsay meal cost? ›

A Michelin Star Experience at Gordon Ramsay Restaurants will cost you somewhere between $150 to $1200. This does not include any tips," the site continues. Now, on the lower end of things, just over $100 is not too bad, all things considered. Plenty of upscale spots charge more than this.

Is Hells Kitchen dinner free? ›

No, it is not free to eat at Hell's Kitchen. The restaurant, owned by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, is an upscale establishment, so diners should expect to pay for their meal.

Who is Erin French's sister? ›

Alicia Richardson is Erin's younger sister. An early 2010's article in mentions Alicia assisting her sister as host at the first incarnation of the Lost Kitchen in Belfast, Maine.

Where did Erin French meet her husband? ›

A key part of her "village" is her new husband, Michael Dutton, a media executive, whom she met on and married in 2018.

Is there a movie being made about Erin French? ›

They will develop a movie based on the touching life of the chef and entrepreneur whose Freedom, Maine-based restaurant The Lost Kitchen is so hot that the only way to eat there is to send a postcard and be chosen.

Who is the richest actress in France? ›

MARION Cotillard has topped a list of France's highest-paid cinema stars, compiled by le Figaro. Her earnings of €2.35m in 2010 from Inception and Les Petits Mouchoirs made her the first woman at the top of the list.

How many millionaires are in France? ›

Countries by number and percentage of millionaires
Country or subnational areaNumber of millionairesShare of global millionaires (%)
China *6,190,0009.4
Japan *3,366,0006.5
United Kingdom *2,849,0005.3
France *2,796,0004.4
43 more rows

Is Todd English married? ›

He hosted the TV cooking show, Food Trip with Todd English, on PBS. In 2005 he was a judge on the PBS show Cooking Under Fire.
Todd English
SpouseOlivia Disch English (divorced)
4 more rows

What happened at The Lost Kitchen? ›

He fired the entire Lost Kitchen staff, closed the restaurant and changed the locks on the doors, taking custody of French's son in the process. French thought she'd lost everything. After rehab, she wound up back at her parents' house again, determined to rebuild her life.

Where did Erin French grow up? ›

Erin French, the chef of the Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, where she grew up flipping burgers at her family's diner. “It's July in Maine,” she said on a recent night, raising a sweaty glass of rosé.

What religion is Erin from Home Town? ›

Erin and Ben Napier's religion

As the couple navigate their lives in the spotlight, one thing has always stood out. At the forefront of everything they do is their Christian faith.

Does Erin have a son? ›

Erin Napier

How much money does Erin Andrews make? ›

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Andrews' net worth was estimated to be around $30 million, which she earned though her previous work with ESPN, as co-host of Dancing with the Stars and now with Fox. Her salary is roughly $2 million per year.

How much does Beth Dutton make in Yellowstone? ›

Yellowstone is back for a fifth season, so Kelly Reilly is still earning paychecks for her Emmy-nominated role as Beth Dutton. It has been reported that Reilly is paid $200,000 per episode of the series, which makes her one of the highest-paid members of the cast.

Who owns the Dutton family ranch? ›

Who Owns the Yellowstone Ranch in Real-Life? Yellowstone Dutton Ranch is a real-life working ranch known as Chief Joseph Ranch. The ranch is owned by Shane Libel and his family, who live there when Yellowstone is not filming.

How much does rip make per episode of Yellowstone? ›

Cole Hauser per episode on Yellowstone earns a reported $200,000. That means for each season of 10 episodes, the actor earns around $2 million.

What kind of boots does Erin French wear? ›

A beautifully written modern read with all the old fashioned feels of an E.B. White tale. What I'm wearing: Luksin organic Maine-made clothing and Le Chameau rubber boots. They're perfect for Maine mud season and for spring yard work and around the farm chores.

Who financed The Lost Kitchen? ›

On Monday, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, which co-administers the fund with Maine Farmland Trust, announced the Lost Kitchen fundraising effort has raised more than $950,000 from over 25,000 people in the last month.

What restaurant sued Kitchen Nightmares? ›

The Lawsuit In Question

In 2018, Oceana Grill, a restaurant based out in New Orleans, came after Gordon Ramsay and the show after the way that they were portrayed on Kitchen Nightmares.

What is The Lost Kitchen on Magnolia Network? ›

About the Show

Erin French followed her passion and opened a restaurant in her hometown of Freedom, Maine. Travelers from all over the world gather at The Lost Kitchen to enjoy Erin's locally inspired and sourced menu.

Whats the name of the person who takes you to your seat at a restaurant? ›

Host and Hostess Duties and Responsibilities (Job Description) A hostess is the first person to meet a guest when they enter a restaurant, and they're in charge of the beginning part of the dining experience.

Does Erin French own The Lost Kitchen? ›

Erin French, head chef and owner of The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine.

Why did The Lost Kitchen close? ›

The last night of the service she describes was a breaking point, ending with a violent fight between French and her husband. On the verge of suicide, she ended up in rehab. He fired the entire Lost Kitchen staff, closed the restaurant and changed the locks on the doors, taking custody of French's son in the process.

How does Ghost kitchen make money? ›

How Much Does a Ghost Kitchen Owner Make? Across the restaurant industry, the business owner pays themself 50% of the profit and invests the other 50% into the business. So, if a ghost kitchen's average monthly profit margin is 7%, the owner makes about 3.5% of the sales.

How much does a Hells Kitchen cook get paid? ›

Hells Kitchen pays an average hourly rate of $142 and hourly wages range from a low of $123 to a high of $163. Individual pay rates will, of course, vary depending on the job, department, location, as well as the individual skills and education of each employee.

How does Walmart ghost kitchen work? ›

Ghost Kitchens enables consumers to order freshly prepared restaurant meals for delivery or pickup while shopping at select Walmart stores. The innovative omnichannel experience further fortifies the company's position in the industry by providing convenient, affordable restaurant solutions to consumers.

Who is the owner of ghost kitchen? ›

George Kottas

A serial entrepreneur and seasoned franchiser with the vision driving Ghost Kitchen Brands explosive growth.

What are Uber ghost kitchens? ›

The service, owned by Uber founder and ex-CEO Travis Kalanick, promises restaurateurs delivery-only kitchens in rented warehouse spaces with low startup fees.

How much do Gordon Ramsay's sous chefs make? ›

Our Sous Chefs are responsible for providing the Gordon Ramsay standard of remarkable experiences and exceptional hospitality to our guests.
Hell's Kitchen - DC.
Salary$70000 - $80000 / Year
ScheduleFull Time
ExperienceMinimum 1 year of experience

What happens to the leftover food on cooking shows? ›

MasterChef US and UK

Of course, we're all curious where that veritable smorgasbord of delights ends up after filming is over. As it turns out, the crew gets first dibs, Marketplace reported. All leftovers and unused pantry items are then donated to MEND – a support service charity based in LA.

How much does the head chef at Gordon Ramsay Steak Las Vegas make? ›

He earned a head chef position worth a salary of $250,000 at Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Chef Ramsay on Scott's victory: “Scott won tonight because he has all the qualities I'm looking for in a head chef. He is passionate, determined and a true leader.


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