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For Chef Erin French, the center of the universe is The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine. Utilizing local ingredients and artisans, this labor of love runs from an old converted mill that comes to life with the help of her friends and family. Presented by L.L. Bean.
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- Freedom, Maine, the middle of nowhere. Center of the universe, I think. You know, this rugged, kind of off the beaten trail, and a little bit rough around the edges. Textures of this place that are constantly just kind of influencing the way I see the world. It's kind of incredible that I left, but there's a magnet that kept like pulling me back here. You know, taking a village to sort of get me back on my feet, and to find my roots, and the sort of self-discovery of food and where I'm from. My name is Erin French, and I am the girl behind the stove atLost Kitchen. I had this burning need inside of me to just contribute something, do something with my hands and create something. And I felt like I hadn't figured out what it was. I started this little supper club, this teeny, tiny little supper club in an apartment and called itLost Kitchen cause you'd have to find it. And I was trying to find myself. And just sort of let the current take me where it's supposed to go, and guess what? It was home, was the crazy thing, it was right here, it was right back to where, you know, square one. I lived in here for probably something like eight months? Yeah, just like eight months living in here. My little house. My divorce-mobile. What more do you need? If you can't fit everything you need in this space, then I don't know. It had most of what was the original interior in it. I tore the whole thing out in two days, just like, sledgehammered, ripped the whole thing out. And just started fresh, from scratch, it was like my whole life, started from scratch. Think there's more adventures in this one. I'm not done with it yet. So the Airstream, gave this platform to kind of say there's a different way to dine. We have a little dinner setup at Victoria's Apple Orchard. We kind of do this every year, where we come and we enjoy the space kind of at the end of the season. We have a table set up and it's just an opportunity for us all to get together on our day off and have really good food and be with really good friends and enjoy the season. We're gonna press all the apples. Brussels sprouts with fresh cider. Kabocha squash. Nice, organic village farmed chickens who've been brined. I've cooked a lot food in a lot of weird ways on that teeny tiny stove or like on a Weber grill, or whatever I could possibly get my hands on before I was able to find what was next, which happened to be this beautiful mill and then the center of the town that I grew up in. So every day, the menu changes here. Which again can be very scary and is like kind of the most the exciting part of it. So I'm putting together all of the ingredients that I've got coming in the door. Trying to put all of these together, trying to make sense of it. I'm gonna come up with some good combinations, I'm coming up with some fall flavors here. We wanna make people feel comfortable, their bodies need to feel comfortable, the temperature of the food has to feel right. So yeah, a zillion factors that go into making a menu. I kind of hate the word chef because I don't feel like that's me, I feel like I'm a girl who cooks and I'm just a composer. I have all of these amazing you know sort of musicians around me. All of my ingredients come from people that I know, people that are near and dear friends of mine. Everything's five, 10 miles, 15 miles away, you know or a really tight radius. You know some days I don't know what I'm doing, it feels like that. But you know we're running on two things and that's love and good ingredients, that's all we got. Oh yeah, I think this one would fit four well. - [Collaborator] Erin has started wanting to incorporate more of my work and have more handmade pottery that fits in really nicely with the story ofLost Kitchen and how all of us as staff are involved, it's not just that we work there. - [Erin] Can I just sketch something? - [Collaborator] Yeah. - [Erin] Like if we were to do like a bowl, so meaning like could we do a lip.. - [Collaborator] It's not just my ideas, but it's her ideas and our ideas as a collaboration. It's those subtle attentions to detail that make all the difference in how something looks or feels as an experience or an object that you're using. It's made for one of the most special restaurant work environments that I've ever been a part of. - [Erin] It's pretty awesome to be able to have so many people who are contributing their details to this combined effort here and we have women here who bring in produce. - I pretty much sell almost all of these pears to Erin. - [Erin] And women here who bring in flowers. - All the flowers here I grow. It's a horse-powered farm and it's just up the road. - You know it's not just the food, but also the backdrop for the food, the dish, you know it sometimes goes unnoticed. - So many people have put their love into this place. We genuinely care about this place and not just Erin, just everybody that comes to eat here, we just really want them to have a great experience. - You can't let people down, they are coming out, they're spending money and it doesn't matter if it's a diner or if it's $100 a person. - Hello, Lost Kitchen. I do not, we're currently booked for the 2016 season, but I'd be more than happy to put your on a cancellation list. - I have a hard time with hearing that, we're booked for the 2016 season. - And what's your name? - It's so much pressure. It feels like a lot of, you know the expectations are growing. And it makes my heart pound a little bit. But if this were easy, everyone would do it. We can handle this, we got this. It's only 40 people coming for dinner, right? No big deal. This space you know is also very much like home because, you know, it is. You are coming into a place with my family, my sister runs the phones. - It's a lot more like dining in someone's home. It's a completely different experience than any other restaurant. - [Erin] My mother runs the wine shop and she's here every day. - [Erin's Mother] This place is kind of a gift to the whole community and to the farmers and all the people. I've lived here for 37 years and never felt more apart of my community until this place. - All the other women who work here, they are like family, they're like sisters to me. I love the fact that these women can go to the table and say these were my tomatoes, I grew these tomatoes, I can tell you exactly the variety and I grew that. That's pretty special. - Having the farm to table connection for me just keeps me going as a farmer. It makes it feel so much more special to say I picked that this morning, it's super special. - [Erin] These dishes represent me. They represent the ingredients that is like my turf, that is this land that I grew up in. This place that I call home, these are the ingredients. And you know, this is the way I wanna eat food. This is the way I want it. That it's my duty to give every bit that I can for the other people in this community, so for the other farmers, for my friends to be able to make that possible, you know, is huge. I just wanna raise my glass and I wanna toast to all of you. Being here in this little mill in the middle of nowhere, who the heck would've thought that we'd be here. This is supposed to be impossible. This is my hometown. 719 people, tonight we're at five percent with you all here, so thanks for here, cheers to Freedom, enjoy. - It's just a pretty perfect life right now. It may not last forever, but while it's like this, I'll take it. - And I know that this is this beautiful space in time that if this carries on in some way, that hopefully my grandkids will maybe make some of my recipes. And that their kids will make it. The culture of this little place that I'm from, that taught me how to look at my surroundings and how to make these dishes, and that this has become like some little piece of fabric of where I'm from and that that'll carry on in some way.