DIRIGO STORIES: ‘The Lost Kitchen’ finds incredible success in restaurant’s fourth season
FREEDOM (WGME) -- The food scene in Portland is booming, but it's a restaurant an hour and a half away that's the toughest table to get.
Tucked away in an old mill in Freedom, The Lost Kitchen has become a dining destination for people all over the world.
"It's a 100 percent reflection of who I am," said Erin French, owner and chef of The Lost Kitchen.
French is a Freedom native who grew up playing restaurant as a kid. She always loved cooking, and is a self-taught chef. French lost her first restaurant in a divorce several years ago. She moved home to Freedom, and decided to try again. She opened her new restaurant in July 2014.
"I cried a river and it brought me to a waterfall," French said.
Guests walk across a bridge over that waterfall to get to The Lost Kitchen. They're greeted by her mother, Deanna Richardson, who runs the wine cellar. Then, guests go upstairs for a three and a half hour multi-course dinner that's meant to feel more like you're dining at a friend's house than at a traditional restaurant.
"We thought our biggest problem would be people coming here and now our biggest problem is too many people want to come here."
French has found great success at her restaurant with prefix menus she creates based on the ingredients available to her from local farmers.
Last season, they booked all their reservations – May through December 31 – in three weeks. With more and more national exposure, French's success exploded when they opened the phone lines for the 2017 season on April 1.
“The phone didn't stop ringing for days and days and days. We were up 26 hours straight the first night,” said French. “Just thousands and thousands of phone calls beyond anything we could ever imagine.”
The Lost Kitchen received 10,000 phone calls from all over the world. They’re booked solid for the season – now until New Year’s Eve.
“It’s exciting and it's scary and it makes me nauseous and thrilled and all of these mixed emotions at the same time.”
French says part of her success is because she’s stayed true to herself. She has no plans to expand the 44-seat restaurant or to open for breakfast or lunch.
“Someone once said, ‘Is this a business or a cause?’” said French. “It’s kind of my business and my cause. What’s wrong with that?”
French released a cookbook in May with recipes and stories about her life in Maine. She’s hoping that people who weren’t able to get a reservation this year can get a little taste of “The Lost Kitchen” that way.
You can also monitor the restaurant’s page on Facebook – for a chance to get a spot on the waitlist.