In this affecting debut memoir, chef French unflinchingly chronicles the victories and failures that led to her establishing The Lost Kitchen, her renowned restaurant in Freedom, Maine. She shares vivid memories of growing up in Freedom, whether foraging alongside her grandparents or enjoying hot fudge sundaes at her father’s diner. She artfully describes her growing passion for cooking, which began when she started helping out at the diner at age 12 and intensified after she dropped out of college due to an unplanned pregnancy. While waitressing as a single mom, she married the charming if troubled Tom, though the marriage predictably turned toxic: Tom had a drinking problem and was dismissive of French, and French was diagnosed with anxiety, was briefly committed to a psych ward, and got hooked on prescription drugs. During their messy divorce, French slowly began rebuilding her life with the help of her mother, friends, and food. Readers will root for French and will be fascinated by her efforts at survival, redemption, and rejuvenation. Notably heavier on insight and lighter on hubris than the average chef memoir, this will speak to both the brokenhearted and those with kitchen dreams of their own. Agent: Janis Donnaud, Janis Donnaud & Assoc. (Apr.)
"With extraordinary honesty and humor, Erin French's incredible memoir takes us on a profoundly personal journey through her highest highs and her lowest lows. It was her love of cooking and bringing people joy that gave her the strength to build the life she’d always dreamed of. I’ll never forget this book and neither will you."
“Erin is an overcomer and a risk-taker. She’s the kind of person who, when faced with a setback, pushes forward and makes beauty out of hardship. Her story is full of passion and courage, and when you read this book, you will walk away feeling inspired and encouraged in your own life.”
Joanna Gaines, Co-Founder, Magnolia
"Erin French is a talented chef, a successful entrepreneur, a beautiful young woman, and a passionate promoter of living the 'good life.' This book chronicles the incredible ups, and relatable downs, of building a life and a business. Congratulations, Erin! You have done it!"
Martha Stewart, Founder Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
"Women everywhere will respond to Finding Freedom, a story of the triumph of true passion against all odds. With grit, honesty, and lyrical writing, Erin French takes us on her journey: working the line at her father’s diner, surviving addiction, toxic relationships, raising her son as a single mother, to finally re-inventing herself as a renowned chef and restaurateur. Finding Freedom is a wild ride, one you won’t soon forget."
Stephanie Danler, bestselling author of Sweetbitter and Stray
"Erin and I grew up in very different kitchens (an American diner; Chez Panisse), but I recognized so much in her experience: the intimacy and immediacy of a restaurant-as-second-home; the sounds and smells of cooking; the pleasure of bringing joy to people through food. Erin's story is a gritty, sensuous, honest story of finding her own pathwith the pursuit of good food as her bellwether."
Fanny Singer, author of Always Home
"Engaging stories from the kitchen and beyond... A canny life story from a determined woman with the gift of vision and the wherewithal to implement it."
STARRED Kirkus Review
"Readers will root for French and will be fascinated by her efforts at survival, redemption, and rejuvenation. Notably heavier on insight and lighter on hubris than the average chef memoir, this will speak to both the brokenhearted and those with kitchen dreams of their own."
“Ms. French tells a courageous story without sentimentality or self-pity. She has a sense of humor, an eye for detail and knows how to build tension. But what impresses me most about this book is her evocative writing about food. She describes it so well you can taste it.”
Wall Street Journal
"French chronicles her struggles, failures and triumphs in a lyrically written new memoir, 'Finding Freedom'...[a] compelling, authentic tale of grit and determination"
French, owner of the highly regarded Lost Kitchen Restaurant in a small Maine town called Freedom, candidly writes about becoming a successful chef and mother. The author takes us out of the kitchen to draw a picture of her growth and evolution into a personally and professionally successful woman in small-town New England. French's life is not all smooth sailing; a childhood of searching for parental approval while helping out in the family diner takes a sharp turn when French finds herself pregnant as a young woman. The next several years are punctuated by both successes and failures, culminating in a challenging struggle with addiction and overcoming the effects of a toxic marriage. The writing is frank and, particularly when related to her struggle to regain custody of her son, heart-wrenching. The redemptive arc of the final chapters is satisfying and will leave readers wanting to know more about the author's life and the band of restaurant workers she has brought together. VERDICT Openly sharing insight on overcoming difficult family dynamics and on struggling with addiction, French has written a standout chef memoir that will have readers turning the pages.—Rebecca Brody, Westfield State Univ., MA
An acclaimed chef and restaurateur offers engaging stories from the kitchen and beyond.
In this immersive memoir, French delves into her life so far, covering the twists, turns, successes, and failures that led to her successful career as the owner and head chef of the much-lauded Lost Kitchen in the tiny town of Freedom, Maine. Though this is her first book of narrative nonfiction (following her 2017 cookbook), French demonstrates her talents as a storyteller, whether she’s discussing her early cooking career, which she spent managing the fryolator, serving clam baskets, and producing perfect soft-serve ice cream cones at her father’s diner; recounting a childhood replete with bucolic wonder (“I spent countless summer days from breakfast until dinner running wild through the seemingly endless pastures and wilderness”); or delineating her struggles as an adult. The harrowing details of her first marriage—her alcoholic husband eventually became abusive, and she lost herself in pill addiction—add palpable tension to her story, as do the scenes set in an “all-female rehab facility.” Despite these hardships, French refreshingly avoids unnecessary self-pity or sentimentality, and the life-affirming details are just as strong: The author notes her love of Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, Stevie Nicks, and the “Cape Verdean jazz” of Cesária Évora, and she shares an amusing tale about baking pot brownies and getting “high for the first time of my life” at age 33. Also relatable are her accounts of tussles and reconciliations with her sister. From a secret, at-home supper club and an early iteration of the Lost Kitchen, the author stays on point in her evocative portrayal of the importance of food in her life. “As a girl,” she writes, “I had learned from my father that good food could be a vessel, a way to show love, even when you might not have the words to say so.”
A canny life story from a determined woman with the gift of vision and the wherewithal to implement it.