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Finding Freedom: A Cook's Story; Remaking a Life from Scratch

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From Erin French, owner and chef of the critically acclaimed The Lost Kitchen, a TIME world dining destination, a life-affirming memoir about survival, renewal, and finding a community to lift her up

Long before The Lost Kitchen became a world dining destination with every seating filled the day the reservation book opens each spring, Erin French was a girl roaming barefoot on a 25-acre farm, a teenager falling in love with food while working the line at her dad's diner and a young woman finding her calling as a professional chef at her tiny restaurant tucked into a 19th century mill. This singular memoir--a classic American story--invites readers to Erin's corner of her beloved Maine to share the real person behind the "girl from Freedom" fairytale, and the not-so-picture-perfect struggles that have taken every ounce of her strength to overcome, and that make Erin's life triumphant.

In Finding Freedom, Erin opens up to the challenges, stumbles, and victories that have led her to the exact place she was ever meant to be, telling stories of multiple rock-bottoms, of darkness and anxiety, of survival as a jobless single mother, of pills that promised release but delivered addiction, of a man who seemed to offer salvation but in the end ripped away her very sense of self. And of the beautiful son who was her guiding light as she slowly rebuilt her personal and culinary life around the solace she found in food--as a source of comfort, a sense of place, as a way of bringing goodness into the world. Erin's experiences with deep loss and abiding hope, told with both honesty and humor, will resonate with women everywhere who are determined to find their voices, create community, grow stronger and discover their best-selves despite seemingly impossible odds. Set against the backdrop of rural Maine and its lushly intense, bountiful seasons, Erin reveals the passion and courage needed to invent oneself anew, and the poignant, timeless connections between food and generosity, renewal and freedom.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published April 6, 2021

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About the author

Erin French

6 books182 followers
Erin French is the owner and chef of The Lost Kitchen, a 40-seat restaurant in Freedom, Maine, that was recently named one TIME Magazine’s World’s Greatest Places and one of "12 Restaurants Worth Traveling Across the World to Experience" by Bloomberg. A born-and-raised native of Maine, she learned early the simple pleasures of thoughtful food and the importance of gathering for a meal. Her love of sharing Maine and its delicious heritage with curious dinner guests and new friends alike has garnered attention in outlets such as The New York Times (her piece was one of the ten most read articles in the food section the year it was published), Martha Stewart Living, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and Food & Wine. She has been invited to share her story on NPR’s All Things Considered, The Chew, CBS This Morning, and The Today Show. Erin was featured in a short film made by Tastemade in partnership with L. L. Bean, which won a James Beard Award, and The Lost Kitchen Cookbook has been named one of the best cookbooks by The Washington Post, Vogue.com, and Remodelista and was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,302 reviews
Profile Image for Yun.
509 reviews19k followers
March 31, 2021
Erin French is the chef of the critically acclaimed The Lost Kitchen, one of the most exclusive restaurants in the country, where the only way to get a seat is to mail in a postcard and be entered into their lottery. There, you will compete with the other 20,000 postcards that came in for a chance to eat at this small 40-seat restaurant during its open season.

Finding Freedom details Chef French's journey from a young age discovering her love of food and cooking, to her early adult life of being a struggling single mom, to her rock bottom years of prescription pill and alcohol addiction, to becoming the successful woman that she is today. This was a journey fraught with peril and heartbreak, but also with healing and redemption.

A memoir is such a personal experience, and you can tell that French put her heart and soul into this. She went through some extremely traumatic experiences in her life, and it must have been hard to put it all in writing and to be so open to judgement and criticism. Yet she was brutally honest and often spent a lot of time on introspection to figure out her own role in what transpired. I admire her honesty and her unflinching ability to look at herself, something that is not easy for anyone to do, let alone in such a public forum.

But I had a few issues with this book that prevented me from connecting with it more. For one thing, her writing style is extremely descriptive and detailed. For example, if she's talking about her restaurant, she would describe everything about it, including its wall color, countertops, chairs and tables, lighting choices, silverware, napkins, plates and bowls, etc., leaving no detail unmentioned. That, plus her preference for long unbroken paragraphs, means that it's not unusual to turn to a new page, see a wall of text of nothing but descriptions. It made it hard for me to keep my attention, and when it did wander, I had trouble remembering where I was in the paragraph.

For a memoir, there's also a noticeable lack of anecdotes, especially towards the second half of the book. For example, she often talks about her son, but there isn't a single thing I remember about him because she never shared anything concrete. Or she often mentions that she and her sister don't get along, but didn't actually give any examples of what happened. Instead, she tells her story mostly through introspection, with events quickly summarized so that she can get to her thoughts and feelings on it, which is where she really spends the bulk of her time.

It was also extremely hard to read what happened to her. She grew up surrounded by toxic people and relationships. Instead of setting boundaries, she only knew how to enabled these people and to grab on ever harder, seeking their approval and affection. Then, when she became an adult, those were the only kinds of relationships she knew how to have and she went on to replicate them. It was really frustrating to see this happen when she was young, but it was even more so once she became an adult and continued in this toxic environment.

This is a very dark book, and I didn't realize going in that it would be so. What I thought I was getting is an inspirational story about a struggling chef finally making it in the culinary world, along with interesting tidbits of what it's like to be this profession. Instead this is really an addict's story of growing up in an abusive household, not learning the necessary skills to cope, and then using drugs and alcohol to do it. It's about hitting absolute rock bottom and then starting the long slow climb out into the light.

After everything she's been through, I'm glad Erin French got the success she worked so hard for. While I didn't completely connect with her memoir, I do think her restaurant sounds amazing, and I hope one day to have the chance to try it for myself.

My heartfelt thanks for the advance copy that was provided for my honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :) .
977 reviews2,656 followers
October 6, 2022

Just when I was looking for something new and different to read this beautiful book showed up on my doorstep!!!! The gorgeous cover immediately called to me and I found the inside to be just as beautiful as the outside!!!!!!!!!!

I seldom read memoirs, I just never take the time to research that genre. Erin French’s memoir comes when she has reached a high in her career, her restaurant “The Lost Kitchen” is now well established in the town of Freedom, Maine. It is known worldwide for its “farm to table” menu and is booked months in advance. It is her journey to this place that is fascinating.

Born to a stern father who runs a local diner, French grew up in the restaurant’s kitchen. While very young she started with helping out with simple tasks and by the time she was a teenager she was working the line taking and then making and filling orders. Like most young people she was restless and anxious to flee this small town. She finally escaped Freedom to go to college only to find herself pregnant and homeless at 21.

What I loved was French’s complete honesty when talking about her journey. She never blamed anyone but herself for her many ups and downs in life. She was frank when discussing when she hit rock bottom, controlled by a manipulative husband who eventually even took full custody of her son while she was in rehab. He forced the closure of her first restaurant while she was in treatment. She was in danger of losing everything that she loved, her freedom, her restaurant and her son. She details her fall into drug addiction and how she clawed her way back to independence.

Food was always a focus in her life. She loved experimenting with new ways to use fresh, local produce and eventually her restaurant became well known by locals and foodies from far and wide, especially after it was featured in some food and travel magazines. She never went to culinary school but learned as she cooked and experimented.

She found in the end that Freedom, Maine was exactly where she wanted to be. She bought an old mill that had been abandoned for many years, it was reborn into a restaurant with the barn as a wine cellar. The women of Waldo County would be the ones that came to work for her and support her. “What we had in common was that we were all making and building a life here in this rural place that sometimes felt like the middle of nowhere, and knowing that we weren’t’ alone lent some sort of comforting strength”. Her success is hard earned and wow, I would love the chance to eat there someday!!!

I will leave you to read her amazing journey, it is eye opening, honest and filled with the kind of strength of character that we all aspire to.

I received this novel from the publisher, Celadon Books. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Julie .
3,999 reviews58.9k followers
January 20, 2021
Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking a life from Scratch by Erin French is a 2021 Celadon Books publication.

An inspiring story of success!

In this memoir, Erin French shares her life journey in an honest, emotionally raw voice. Her upbringing, her family dynamics, her first marriage, her lonely and extremely difficult battle with depression and substance abuse, hitting rock bottom and clawing her way back up to become a successful restaurant owner is often harrowing to read about, but rewarding in the end.

The Lost Kitchen is located in Freedom, Maine, which makes the title of the book a nice play on words. Freedom is a tiny little town, but the restaurant is known as a ‘dining destination’. Erin, and her restaurant, have been noticed and featured in the NYT and Martha Stewart Living, and Erin has shared her story on NPR’s “All Things Considered” and more.

Her journey to this point has been fraught with many roadblocks, mistakes, and challenges, but Erin dug deep to find the tenacity to turn her life around and the courage to grab her dream and make it come true.

Anytime I see someone work their up from rock bottom, having lost virtually everything, to reclaim their lives again, I find much hope and inspiration in their determination to fight back.

From a personal standpoint, Erin didn’t exactly make a good first impression. She got off on my bad side almost immediately by offending my religious beliefs. Although I bristled, I was able to shake it off and read the book with an open mind and by using my critical thinking cap.

I am glad I stayed with the book. Erin's battles with depression is especially grim, and her pain, literally jumps off the page. My heart went out to her, but I was also impressed by her strength and her love for her son, which inspired her fight to win.

It is good to see someone pull themselves back from the brink to find professional victory, and personal stability as well.

I’m happy Erin's talents are being recognized and sincerely hope she continues to enjoy much success and prosperity.

While I live a long way from Maine, I'll keep an eye out for more great reviews and features about Erin and her The Lost Kitchen.

4 stars
April 27, 2021
**Many thanks to @CeladonBooks and Erin French for an ARC of this book! Now available as of 4.6!**

A moving and inspiring journey, away from home and back again, with a tinge of rustic charm!

Erin French is currently the owner and operator of the Lost Kitchen, an incredibly successful restaurant which imbues all of the quality of fine dining in a down-home country setting: a renovated old mill with the lovely sounds of a rushing waterfall in the background. Reservations are SO hard to come by, in fact, that French had to leave them to chance and random draw rather than utilize an online system...since a prior attempt to use a similar system was SO successful that it actually crashed the computer servers!

Far from this bountiful success, though, Erin's life as a young girl growing up in the tiny town of Freedom was shaped by the sky high expectations of her parents, living in her sister's shadow, and her father's cold and absent demeanor, further exacerbated by his struggles with alcohol. The one exception to this distance between father and daughter came in the form of food, as Erin's father begrudgingly incorporated his daughter into the family diner. From here, Erin takes us through changing expectations, an unplanned pregnancy, and a whirlwind and tumultuous marriage, and even takes the reader through a harrowing journey with addiction and her time in a facility, reminiscent of Girl, Interrupted. At the brink of self-destruction and with limited options, Erin's journey eventually takes her back towards her own liberation, fittingly---right back where she started---in the town of Freedom.

Though I am far from a foodie and was not familiar with Erin French or her restaurant prior to reading, this memoir was captivating from page one. French's use of language is as thoughtful, delicate, and artful as her culinary creations themselves. Her passion for food simmers from the page, and at times I could almost hear the pots and pans whistling and clanging behind me. Not only does Erin imbue her passion for food throughout the pages, she also explores the concept of personal freedom--freedom from the expectations of others, and the chains we assign ourselves through the burdens we bear, and how good it feels to shrug them off and live life fearlessly, arm in arm with family and the friends who have become family.

I have certainly added The Lost Kitchen to my restaurant bucket list after reading this wonderful memoir, and applaud Erin French for her courage, resilience, and creativity. Be sure you pick up this memoir---and although it goes ENTIRELY without saying, do NOT read on an empty stomach!

#FindingFreedomMemoir #CeladonReads #partner
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,085 reviews30.1k followers
April 7, 2021
Erin French’s story is an inspiring one, and foodies and fans of memoirs will especially love this one.

It wasn’t a straight path, from working in her dad’s diner to owning her own successful restaurant. There were highs and incredible lows along the way, rehab, a custody battle, and the potential loss of her business and livelihood.

Erin’s voice is refreshingly honest and down-to-earth. I admire her character and commitment to righting her own ship with grit and hard work. One day I’d love to visit her restaurant in Maine. Thanks to her beautiful writing I’ve got an amazing sense of the atmosphere there.

I received a gifted copy.

Many of my reviews can also be found on my blog: www.jennifertarheelreader.com and instagram: www.instagram.com/tarheelreader
Profile Image for Katie B.
1,257 reviews2,940 followers
January 18, 2021
I love reading nonfiction but I love food even more. Not a big surprise I enjoyed this memoir written by a woman who has spent much of her life working in the food industry. As she writes about her life full of ups and downs, she also gives a ton of yummy food descriptions. A worthwhile read especially if you have a passion for food.

Erin French grew up in a small town in Maine and started working at her father's diner at a young age. Many, many years later she experienced tremendous success opening a restaurant that attracted customers from around the globe. So how did she get to that point? Well, read the book. She's been on an incredible journey full of times that were rough to put it mildly.

One of the things I liked reading about was Erin's farm to table approach to cooking. It's obvious she has a deep appreciation for ingredients some might call basic or simple but can be absolutely delicious. Give the girl a good tomato and she'll be quite content. I love to eat and some of my best vacation memories involve eating fantastic food at restaurants. If I ever find myself in Maine and am lucky enough to snag a reservation, I am going to eat at her restaurant for sure.

If you enjoy reading memoirs about someone overcoming adversity, give this book a look.

Thank you to Celadon Books for providing me with an advance copy. All thoughts expressed are my honest opinion.
April 6, 2021
Now Available!
This is an interesting and inspiring memoir about a woman who lost everything and clawed her way back to health and success.

I'm a huge fan of foodie books, and this one definitely has that--Erin started working in the diner her father owned from a young age, where she learned to work the food line and how to make various food items. She eventually started a supper club out of her house, which turned into a restaurant venture, but when her life hit rock bottom she lost it all and had to reinvent herself and her success.

Much of her story is heartbreaking--from an unplanned pregnancy to a terrible marriage to drug addiction, Erin had many things stacked against her in the path to success. However, with the help of her amazing mother, some fantastic friends, and some serious professional help, she was able to create the restaurant in her Maine hometown called The Lost Kitchen.

This was a very quick read for me, because I became very invested in the outcome and hoped that she would come out on top. Her vulnerability while telling her story shines from each page. This couldn't have been an easy book to write, to leave herself on the page and admit to her failures, yet her communication style is straightforward and she doesn't make excuses for her choices. The descriptions of her various food creations are vivid and sound delectable. She cooks in a way that appeals to me--simplicity with extravagance, and I would love to go there and try some of her dishes.

I thank Celadon for sending me an advance copy of this book. I voluntarily reviewed it and all opinions are my own. #celadonreads
Profile Image for Bkwmlee.
372 reviews242 followers
February 16, 2021
4.5 stars

I’m no food connoisseur, but I love to eat and I also enjoy reading about food, so chef Erin French’s new memoir Finding Freedom is technically right up my alley. French fell in love with food while working the line at her dad’s diner as a teenager and later on, as a young adult, maintained a close connection with food through her subsequent gigs as a waitress, bartender, caterer, and sales clerk at a kitchen supply shop. Unlike most chefs, French never received any type of formal training – she never went to culinary school and much of what she knows about cooking was self-taught through trial and error in the kitchen (and she has the scars on her arms to prove it) – yet through hard work and perseverance, she was able to turn her passion for food and natural ingredients (from growing up on her parent’s farm) into a successful career. French is the owner of The Lost Kitchen -- a small restaurant tucked into a repurposed 19th century mill in the little town of Freedom, Maine (population less than 1000). In the open kitchen of her award-winning restaurant (which is also world-renown), French cooks to a constantly packed crowd, with bookings for the 40-seat dining room usually sold out months in advance. French’s restaurant specializes in “farm-to-table” cooking where she plans her menus daily around the freshest ingredients she is able to obtain each day – majority of her nearly all-female staff are farmers who tend to their own farms by day and work at the restaurant by night, oftentimes bringing with them to their shifts the ingredients that would be used in the day’s dishes (i.e. ripe tomatoes newly picked that morning, eggs laid that day by farm-raised chickens, etc.).

Behind French’s success though, is a harrowing personal story of survival – a journey fraught with pain and turmoil, and enough emotional ups-and-downs to last her several lifetimes. In her memoir, French writes candidly, honestly, and succinctly about her various struggles -- from growing up in a dysfunctional household with an emotionally absent father, an obedient-to-a-fault mother, and an estranged younger sister who loathed her, to getting pregnant at 21, dropping out of college, and subsequently becoming a jobless single mother who eventually moves back in with her parents, then later marrying a man 20 years her senior who turned out to be a scumbag, manipulative monster. She also lays bare her struggles with depression, suicide, self-loathing, an addiction to prescription drugs that spiraled out of control, and the moment she hit rock bottom after being committed to a psychiatric ward and subsequently forced into rehab, losing everything – her home, her restaurant, her marriage, and most painful of all, her beloved child – in the process. Broken, beaten, penniless, with all sense of dignity and self-worth shattered beyond repair, it takes all of French’s strength – physically, mentally, emotionally – to claw her way back from the precipice and rebuild her life from scratch.

French’s story is poignant and heartbreaking, yet also hopeful and inspiring. There were moments that made me cry, moments that made me smile, and of course, moments that made me seethe with anger. French writes with raw honesty and sincerity about her life that is rare and absolutely admirable. She does not shy away from recounting her own flaws, nor does she deny her own role in making a mess of her life (for example – deliberately ignoring all the red flags and warning signs about her ex-husband Tom and the kind of person he was), which I definitely appreciated. Prior to reading this book, I actually had never heard of The Lost Kitchen, but afterward, I found myself wanting to learn more about this little restaurant “in the middle of nowhere” and the tenacious woman who overcame the odds and poured her heart and soul into creating it.

This is a memoir that I’m glad I read and that I absolutely recommend. Unlike some other food memoirs I’ve read, I like the fact that this one achieves a good balance between recounting the details of the author’s story and describing the various food-related elements such as the dishes that the author cooked and how she sourced her ingredients, etc. There have been times when I would read a food memoir and the descriptions of the food would consist of various fancy words that usually went way over my head -- French’s memoir is different in that it’s very down-to-earth and the food descriptions are ones I am able to relate to. This book actually doesn’t come out until April, but if you love food memoirs like I do, I would recommend picking this one up sooner rather than later!

Received paper ARC from Celadon as part of Early Reader program.>

Profile Image for Dana.
666 reviews9 followers
March 31, 2021
This cover immediately had my attention. This would be a total cover buy for me. Those flowers. Gorgeous!

I am a huge fan of memoirs. This is the first time I've read one centered around food. I'll fully admit I was salivating during many points throughout these pages. It was really interesting to learn how French found her love of cooking. Oh how I wish I could visit The Lost Kitchen. Her love of fresh, local ingredients and farm to table approach is one I really admire. Plus I adore the rustic charm!

This story also has its heartbreaking moments, and at times I felt like throwing my book. Some of the events made me so angry for her.

Finding Freedom is raw and truly inspiring. Once again I am amazed by yet another memoir. I can not imagine the strength it must take to share your life story, your truth, with the world.

Thank you so much to Celadon Books for this gifted copy!
Profile Image for Anara Guard.
Author 12 books10 followers
June 3, 2021
This memoir annoyed me so much. I found the narrator unreliable and disingenuous and did not believe how she positioned herself as first, victim and then, heroine. Nor did I swallow her tales of being in detox and rehab (I always find detailed accounts of those days to be suspicious). And I thought she raked her sister over the coals for most of the book and then offered two pages at the end to say that all is sweetness and light between them. If you are a foodie, you may enjoy her many accounts of what she cooked. Otherwise, take a pass.
Profile Image for Jessica Jernigan.
88 reviews24 followers
September 8, 2021
French has an interesting story to tell, but she really could have used the help of a co-author or an editor capable of drawing it out of her. The contrast between her loving, detailed descriptions of the interiors and food in her restaurants and the clichéd, superficial way she talks about the other elements of her life is pronounced. The food all sounds lovely, but there were so many things I wanted to know more about. For instance, when she went into rehab for a very short period of time, her husband (who would eventually be her ex-husband) sought and got full custody of the son she had before she met him. Given how our legal system overwhelming favors mothers, it seems extraordinary that this happened. Either her husband was an evil genius, able to convince a judge that a woman who was trying to get help for her addictions was actually wildly unstable and unfit, or her own recounting of this time in her life is not entirely accurate. And the period in which she either had no custody or shared custody stretched on for several years. What was her son's life like during this time? How did his adopted father—who is absolutely the villain in this book—treat him? Was he simply using French's son to torture her, or did he care about the boy? Was the situation a toxic mix of both? I can understand French not wanting to invade her son's privacy, but if you don't want to share information about a truly central aspect of your life, memoir might not be the genre for you.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,038 followers
August 2, 2021
I didn't know about The Lost Kitchen, an apparently acclaimed restaurant in Maine. I knew less about the owner/chef and her story, but apparently there is a show about her on a network I do not have, so I missed that context. (If you know, you know.) If you like food or recovery memoirs, this is one to try. Something about the pacing (or maybe the level of detail) made it take me a while to finish, but it's nice to read the story of a woman who fights to take control of her own life and finds work that is deeply fulfilling on the other side.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,211 reviews551 followers
June 8, 2021
3.5 stars. I didn't round it up because the prose, especially in description is run on to the point at which it is very hard to follow. As is her pronoun use. At times maybe to be sarcastic? Regardless you may be left guessing who he or she IS.

Incredibly honest and revealing straight forward about herself. For sure. And also inspirational to a healthy degree. That was a breath of fresh air in memoirs modern absolutely. She doesn't whine. She tells.

Interesting family reveals too. She has to own tons of moxie to write of her sibling and Dad as she did. Hard work for sure. Also immense rewards.

This book is darker than trailer or reviews would lead you to believe. There are also pieces of Erin "left out". Voids she worked (in both meanings of worked literally and figuratively) around considerably.
Profile Image for Mary Jackson _TheMaryReader.
1,067 reviews123 followers
January 23, 2021
A memoir with so much heart and a little bit of grit. You can not stop reading it. The food descriptions were something to savor. I could not read this just once. I read it twice.
The hardship and the overcoming is something else to read about. I have so much respect for French after spending an afternoon in her memoir.
I can't recommend this enough. 5 stars and please grab a copy.
The Mary Reader received this book from the publisher for review. A favorable review was not required and all views expressed are our own.
Profile Image for Basic B's Guide.
964 reviews302 followers
October 31, 2022
Loved loved loved it. I picked this up expecting lots and lots of food descriptions and yes you get that but you get so much more. You get a woman who’s fought hard to chase her dreams. The journey is not always as smooth as we want it but oh it can be so sweet when we finally get to our destination.

Highly recommend. I’m adding The Lost Kitchen restaurant to my bucket list and sending in my postcard for a coveted seat at the table.
Profile Image for Mallory.
1,043 reviews63 followers
April 9, 2021
I had not heard of the Lost Kitchen or Erin French before winning an advanced copy of this memoir on BookishFirst, but I am grateful for the chance to get to know Erin through her story. I like memoirs because as opposed to a biography they focus on the heart of the person’s story and this story was full of heart. But any story about the heart is usually full of pain and unfortunately there was plenty of that in this as well. With brutal honest Erin detailed the pain she had experienced and the devastating choices she had made. I loved the way her love for food and cooking was central throughout this book. I am far from a great chef, but the way she talks about food was so good I could almost taste it. The Lost Kitchen sounds like a truly magical place especially because Erin had to lose everything and hit the bottom because she could climb up and find what was lost.
Profile Image for Shannon Rochester.
848 reviews71 followers
February 14, 2021
Thank you to Celadon for surprising me with another book in the mail. I love surprises, especially when they are books. :) This was not my favorite book from them so far but I found it a very interesting read. And I think I just did not connect with anyone or anything I was reading about so it could totally be me that was off. We meet Erin when she is a young girl and we also meet her family...they play a big role in who she is and how she thinks of herself as she grows up. We learn that pretty much her whole life revolved around food in one way or another. As a child, her dad bought the diner that took so much of his time and eventually hers as she ends up working in the diner as well. She did get away for a short time as she tried to go to school and leave Freedom and her dysfunctional family behind but things didn't work out the way she intended and she came home with more than the attitude she left with. Now she is raising a small boy on her own, which can be scary enough,when she meets the guy she eventually marries. Shocker, things don't work out so well here either...but we learn just how much she is willing to fight to have the life she wants. I'm just going to throw this out there...there is a scene involving chickens where I was just like "What in the actual f**k am I reading right now? I had to skip past it because it was sickening to me...other than that, the book was good for me. :)
22 reviews1 follower
July 31, 2021
The issue I have here is the same one I had with Educated. It all beggars belief. The money flows freely despite her constant whingeing about poverty. Do you all know just HOW MUCH money it takes to open a restaurant, restore an Airstream and outfit it with a kitchen, AND pay for a contentious divorce? I’ve done some cooking. And I call BS on turning out 40 covers a night after 3 Xanax and a half bottle of wine. Where she really lost me is when she brings home a dog from the shelter and on the first night, lets it out off leash, and then wonders what happened when it doesn’t come back. Who does that?????
Profile Image for Sandy.
85 reviews
April 13, 2022
What a story! This was for a book club and I'm not sure I would have ever picked it up otherwise. Hey, please learn from my mistake. This is a well written story of several women going through a lot of trials to triumph in their lives in rural Maine.

What do you think the odds are of getting in to her restaurant? Its a lottery,; my friend equated it to Mega Millions.....

A story of triumph in so many ways. Bravo, Erin. I finished this book on the beach and was crying. Hey, don't judge.
Profile Image for Stewart Tame.
2,287 reviews88 followers
January 27, 2021
Full disclosure: I received a free ARC of this book from Celadon in exchange for an honest review. #FindingFreedomMemoir #CeladonReads #partner @CeladonBooks

As a lifelong reader, it's always a joy when an unexpected book shows up on my doorstep. I never know in advance what I’ll be getting, but I’ve grown to trust the taste of whomever it is at Celadon that sends these out. They haven't steered me wrong yet.

I had never heard of Erin French or The Lost Kitchen before, but I definitely love reading about (and eating, of course) good food. Cooking memoirs are always a good time. Although French has had no formal chef training, her restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, in rural Maine has become a foodie destination, every seating filling the day the reservation book opens each spring. Finding Freedom is the story of how she got to this point (hint: it wasn't easy. Or linear, really.)

I found the book captivating, often reading “just one more chapter before I go to bed.” Which, as readers know, is code for “at least six, possibly the rest of the book … do I *really* need sleep?” I don't think it's spoiling anything to say that there are some harrowing moments. Her descriptions are vivid and rich with emotion. This is good if you're reading about food, but perhaps not necessarily so much if you're reading about painful experiences.

I don't mean that in a bad way, of course. Part of what makes for a good memoir is to help the reader feel what you felt. The only one who's truly capable of judging whether or not she's done that is Erin French herself, but for what an outsider’s opinion is worth, I think she's done a marvelous job.

I’m definitely intrigued about the restaurant too, though I'm not sure how likely a trip to Maine is anytime soon. All in all, I enjoyed this book very much. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Rebecca.
2,540 reviews121 followers
April 28, 2021
Erin French, single mom to son Jaim and owner/cook at the Lost Kitchen restaurant located in rural Maine, has written a beautiful, mesmerizing memoir that will not only touch your heart but also tantalize your taste buds.

“I realized that much of the joy and the freedom of cooking lay with creating... beauty.”

When I first grabbed this book from my stack, I couldn't help but groan inwardly at the thought of another memoir, but luckily, this one was a real treat! I was enthralled by Erin's story of extreme resilience, courage, and determination to fulfill her dreams. Foodies will rejoice at the mouth-watering descriptions of the meals she creates. Her story was so inspirational, and I teared up quite a few times times while reading about all she endured while bringing her dream to life again... and again. My heart ached for her as she hit rock-bottom, and I was so angry at the person who forced her there.

With just 75 pages left, I didn’t want it to end but when it did, I was left with a full heart (loved the sisterhood between Erin, her mom Deanne, and her employees) as well as an empty, groaning stomach as I wished I could dine at her restaurant and taste her culinary creations. Luckily for me, she also has a show, Lost Kitchen on Discovery+; so far, I've only watched the first episode but I look forward to more!

Location: Freedom, Maine

I won an advance copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Keisha (keisha_reads).
401 reviews38 followers
January 29, 2021
DO NOT READ THIS BOOK ON AN EMPTY STOMACH: The food descriptions are divine and you will be hungry! •••••••••••••••••••••••••
In Finding Freedom Erin French shares her story with in an artworhy, honest and emotional form. I don’t think it’s any surprise that the foodie in me enjoyed this book. The tales of Erin cooking and bringing recipes to life were incredible.
Even though this book is just a small part of Erins life story, you get a lot & wow did she go through it! From finding love to losing love, losing family, battling addiction and finding her love of food and bringing her dreams to life, there are so many raw and emotional moments in this book of her life journey, that I enjoyed reading about.
& now if only C O V I D didn’t exist so I could travel to Maine and eat at The Lost Kitchen for real!
Pick up your copy of FINDING FREEDOM on PUB DAY 04/06/2021
Profile Image for Wendy G.
907 reviews149 followers
December 20, 2021

I received this galley from Celadon Books and my first thoughts were, oh boy, I'm not a foodie, how am I going to get through this and read about recipes and food for almost 300 pages? Well, I was so wrong and devoured (pun intended) this book. From the beginning, I found myself really liking Erin. She is brave, strong, vulnerable, humble, and really raw at times with her honest portrayal of her life, the successes and the devastating blows. I can't help but admire her strength and tenacity and hope to find myself in Freedom, Maine, dining at The Lost Kitchen and a chance to tell Erin in person what a wonderful friend, daughter, mother, and inspiration she is! #findingfreedommemoir #CeladonReads @CeladonBooks
Profile Image for Literary Redhead.
1,590 reviews484 followers
March 24, 2021
The most inspiring memoir I’ve read in ages, candidly revealing the life of Erin French, founder of The Lost Kitchen, the acclaimed restaurant named a TIME world dining destination.

Potential diners send postcards that if picked, allow them access to a-once-in-a-lifetime meal.

I was dawn to Erin’s honest story through hell then redemption. She details work in her alcoholic dad’s diner, becoming a single mother at 21, suffering addiction and abuse in a marriage to an older man, and finally “finding freedom” in a dilapidated mill she turns into a world-renown restaurant. Kept me turning pages, enrapt in a story of suffering and rebirth I will never forget. Just sent my postcard in — please keep your fingers crossed!

5 of 5 Stars

Pub Date 06 Apr 2021
#FindingFreedomMemoir #NetGalley

Thanks to the author, Celadon Books, and NetGalley for the ARC. Opinions are mine.
Profile Image for Pooja Peravali.
Author 1 book51 followers
February 1, 2022
DNF at 42%.

Erin French grew up in her father's diner, manning the fryers, serving up food. After graduating from high school, she went off to college hoping to become a doctor, but with the birth of her son those old dreams fell through and new ones began - to own her our restaurant.

I won this book in a giveaway a while back, and finally got started on it recently. French has had a tough life, and considering what a success her restaurant has become, her story is inspirational. However, the book just did not manage to hold my attention. This is I think because of the style of writing, which consists of a lot of reminiscing and not much action. I wanted to learn more about French's journey with food and her restaurant, but what I have read so far focuses more on her personal life instead.

I may give it a try again in the future. It's not a bad book at all, but maybe just bad timing for me and now.

Disclaimer: This book was won in a Goodreads giveaway. This is my honest and voluntary review.
Profile Image for Lisa.
31 reviews4 followers
September 18, 2021
This is an interesting memoir from a young woman whose cookbook I own and whose self taught culinary skills are undeniable, but I cannot help but feel she would have served herself better writing it a little later in life, with the benefit of more time and perspective. While she is unsparing in unwinding the tale of her addictions, there seems to be very little accountability in it-it is the fault of her father, her husband, sometimes her sister. She seems to have spent her early life reacting and blaming, which comes through clearly in her prose and I can't help thinking as an older woman she will recount the story differently, with more insight into her own contributions to her issues. The best parts are the descriptions of the restaurants, the food, and cooking, which comes through as the heart of her essence. She is clearly a talented woman and I wish her all the best in her career and life in recovery.
Profile Image for Martine.
160 reviews45 followers
March 22, 2022
I love Erin's TV show and I oh so want to dine at her restaurant The Lost Kitchen! It would be a once in a lifetime dining experience. From comments said in her show I knew Erin had suffered hardships in her past, but reading about what she went thru, how she overcame them and then found happiness is truly inspiring.  A touching memoir.
Profile Image for Melissa.
503 reviews59 followers
February 17, 2021
Not knowing of Erin French before this memoir, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I found was the inspiring story of a chef who overcame a lot to find success doing what she loved.

French very candidly discussed being a young mother and struggling, with her mental health, with addiction, with an abusive partner and with suicidal ideation. I loved her descriptions of food and how cooking and creating helped her find her path.

If you’re a foodie or mental health advocate, I would recommend checking out French’s story.

I received a gifted copy in exchange for my review.
Profile Image for Jessica.
1,699 reviews20 followers
September 27, 2021
I remembered liking Erin French's cookbook The Lost Kitchen, so when I saw that she had a memoir coming out I wanted to check it out. I love a good food/chef memoir. But, honestly I wish I hadn't read this one. Her life was so awful that it's honestly a miracle that she's created such a successful restaurant against all odds. Her parents owned a local diner and Erin grew up helping out there and that's where she learned to cook. But, her father was an alcoholic and a MEAN one, so he never encouraged her, only berated her when she did something wrong. She and her sister are 21 months apart in age, but don't get along at all and often go years with no communication. She got pregnant at 21 and had to drop out of college. Just when she started getting on her feet with her son, she meets her future-husband Tom who is almost her father's age. The way she described their relationship starting I honestly didn't understand why she ever got together with him. Maybe telling the story in hindsight she could see all the red flags she ignored (there were a LOT), but either way they get married and he adopts her son. Oh, but guess what? Tom is also a mean alcoholic. So, Erin turns to Xanax and alcohol to cope with her POS husband and trying to run the restaurant she just started. Then, her husband has her involuntarily committed after a fight, closes her restaurant, and gets primary custody of her son using the commitment against her. Isn't this sounding like a great time already? So, at the age of 33 she is back living with her parents and trying to scrape her life back together. Honestly, the last section of the book is the only (mostly) redeeming and hopeful part of the whole book. She does manage to re-launch her restaurant, divorce Tom, and get half custody of her son, but it's still a LONG way from even a kind of happy ending. The one part that made me the happiest was that Erin's mother ended up divorcing her father after seeing Erin go through her ridiculously bitter divorce and come out on the other side happier. But, it's obvious that Erin is still trying to get her father's approval through her restaurant which is sad. I think she desperately needs some therapy if she's not getting it because just reading about her life made me feel depressed. I would not recommend this one.
Profile Image for Kathy (Bermudaonion).
824 reviews99 followers
March 30, 2021
4.5 stars

As a child in the small town of Freedom, Maine, Erin French wanted nothing more than to leave it behind. She worked hard and earned a scholarship for college but an unplanned pregnancy found her back in her parents home. She knew she had to make a life for herself and her son and, drawing on the experience she got in her dad’s diner as a child, she created a popular and successful restaurant. She lost all of that and more and had to reinvent herself and, thankfully, came back stronger than ever.

What an inspiring story this is! French has had some tough breaks in her life but her talent and determination have helped her rise above it all more than once. I loved her story and am longing to visit her restaurant one day.
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