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Erin French’s The Lost Kitchen in Freedom, Maine, is already one of the toughest restaurant reservations in America to get.

You can only get a seat by mailing in a postcard—and even then, you have to be lucky enough to have your postcard randomly drawn from a pile of over 20,000. Forty-eight seats, four nights a week, less than six months of the year. You can do the math, but even in a normal season, the odds are long. (Full disclosure: I got lucky. Twice.) As tough a get as it already is, the documentary series titled simply The Lost Kitchen is only going to make those odds exponentially longer.

The first episode was filmed at the close of the 2019 season. It focuses on French’s backstory and the origins of The Lost Kitchen itself, and at this point, it’s a pretty straightforward restaurant show: loving closeups of bubbling pots of polenta, oysters with rhubarb vinaigrette and butter-seared halibut (and y’all, that one dude ain’t lying about that pork slider).

The remaining five episodes were filmed during the onset and continuation of the pandemic in 2020. The series quickly 180s and becomes less about gorgeous, thoughtful plating and farm-to-table evangelism (though when French suddenly leaves the kitchen and strolls over to her neighbor’s farm to snip a handful of chives—out of, I dunno, A CHIVE FIELD?—you will believe), and more about the full-panic pivot and constant recalibration TLK must undertake to survive.

French goes from full-dinner service provider to drive-through farmers’ market doyenne to fried chicken lunch slinger to private dining cabin designer (and OMG OMG OMG, the cabin). The sheer number of ways she comes up with to stay viable—all at the same time—is both exhausting and inspirational. So . . . exh-pirational?

The series does a great job of seducing you into hatching a future plan to visit The Lost Kitchen. (Look: you will fill out a postcard, you will send it on April 1, you will scream when your phone lights up with the words “Freedom, Maine” on it, you will drop your phone, and you will call them back immediately and shriek “Did I miss it? DID I MISS IT?”) But I think what it’s really about is the fragile interconnectedness of all small businesses. More than ever, The Lost Kitchen’s success or failure partially (or, in some cases, totally) determines the success or failure of the farmers and the ranchers and the fisherman and the cabin builders she patronizes (not to mention the all-woman staff she employs).

The whole Lost Kitchen process—from hopeful postcard to thrilling phone call to the final perfect bite of a lemon ginger scone—is a once (OR MAYBE TWICE) in a lifetime experience that is, in the end, sure, just dinner.  But watching Erin French pull it all off with such care and thought and empathy in the middle of this nightmare of a pandemic is nothing short of miraculous. Late in the series, referring to the dessert course as her favorite—because it means she and her amazing team made it through another night—she says “We made it this far, and it’s sweet at the end.” Spoiler: she’s not just talking about dinner.

The Lost Kitchen is streaming on Discovery Plus as part of the new Magnolia Network, however all that works. There’s also a cookbook and a forthcoming memoir.

In the MDK Shop
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About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.

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  • I love how passionately you write about this story. It’s almost enough to make me send a postcard all the way from the UK without even watching the programme!!

  • OMG!!!!! Yaaaas that amazing place – have read about it. Getting my postcards ready right after I knit a few rows this morning before online church.

    Thank you for the nudge dude: in perspective and towards more whimsy (vocab word for my online students this week!).

    Your writing is what my brain requires:
    I am SO missing my people from my other life who filled my days with regular hilarity and sweet, wry wonderment sprinkled with a bit of sass.
    Thank you

  • I would bet there are a LOT of free trials for Discovery + starting today. Between DG’s beautifully written “Ode toThe Lost Kitchen” (minus poetry format) and the included trailer, I am in! Thank you!

  • Pandemic-crazed Brooklynites live to tick off these boxes. I am hopeful that the whole region can clear out their attics to supply this market and keep themselves afloat

  • Your bio is hilarious. Yes, that’s a pretty ridiculous ask for a logo. I give up!! Lol

  • It’s interesting what people will obsess over. She has obviously implemented a wildly successful marketing strategy.

  • I discovered this on Discovery+ about two weeks ago and could not stop watching! I was hooked immediately. And yes I will write a postcard, I will hope my phone rings, and if it does I will somehow get to Freedom, Maine.

  • I’ve sent a postcard every year… no calls. *saddest frown face*

  • Upon reading the author’s bio, I had to empathize. As a tattoo artist, I was asked to incorporate way more crazy things into a design. One that I recall included, but wasn’t limited to, the recipient’s fiancé, an American flag, the TCB logo, a smoking gun, a cowboy hat, etc. I tried talking him out of this but he was adamant. Truth really is stranger than fiction!

  • I’m sure it’s a beautiful restaurant and the food is delicious but the whole concept just leaves a bad taste in my mouth!

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