Review: In ‘Finding Freedom,’ a chef‘s struggles and success

Erin French is a rising culinary star known for intimate gourmet dinners crafted from hyperlocal ingredients

“Finding Freedom,” by Erin French (Celadon)

Erin French is a rising culinary star known for intimate gourmet dinners crafted from hyperlocal ingredients. Her magical restaurant, The Lost Kitchen, is located in an abandoned 19th century mill in her tiny hometown of Freedom, Maine. There’s even a show about the restaurant on Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network.

Sounds like a classic American success story, right? But as is so often the case, success did not come easy. French chronicles her struggles, failures and triumphs in a lyrically written new memoir, “Finding Freedom.”

Pregnancy derails her college plans and she ends up in a toxic marriage. She channels her energy into running a private supper club and eventually a restaurant until it all comes crashing down: She’s sidelined by a pill addiction, her husband closes the restaurant and she loses custody of her son.

Slowly she rebuilds. She gets divorced, gets her son back, and turns an old Airstream into a portable kitchen for pop-up suppers. Then she opens The Lost Kitchen. When thousands of reservation requests pour in for her 40-seat dinners, her redemption is complete.

The book ends before the pandemic begins. But this compelling, authentic tale of grit and determination leaves no doubt that French will find her way through this challenge, just like she did all the others.