Finding Freedom by Erin French
Finding Freedom follows world-famous chef Erin French through the journey that eventually led her to open The Lost Kitchen. The memoir opens with a pregnant Erin working in her father’s diner in her hometown of Freedom, Maine. From there she chronologically works her way through her twenties and thirties, where she gets married, raises her son, opens her first restaurant, battles addiction, and so much more.
At times heartwarming and others heartbreaking, Finding Freedom is a gorgeous memoir about a woman who rebuilt her life from the bottom up when it didn’t turn out the way she originally planned. While raising a son, she does whatever it takes to keep her family afloat, pivoting from a pre-med track to the restaurant world, all while dreaming of opening her own restaurant.
I felt so many different emotions while reading this story. I came to care so deeply about these people. I loved how so many parts of the book read like a love letter to her mother. So many of the sections about how French’s mother Deanna was her biggest advocate and fiercest cheerleader brought me to tears. At the same time, I love how refreshingly honest she was about the family members who have disappointed her over the years, namely her ex-husband, father, and sister.
I always struggle when reviewing memoirs. There’s something that feels so deeply strange to critique someone’s life story. But in the case of Finding Freedom, I feel like I can confidently attest to how wonderful of a story it is.
Thank you to Celadon Books for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
Synopsis from Goodreads
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.
About the Author
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.