EXCLUSIVE: With 18 parties at the table, Erin French’s bestselling memoir Finding Freedom: A Cook’s Story; Remaking A Life From Scratch was acquired by Bruna Papandrea’s Made Up Stories and Endeavor Content. They will develop a movie based on the touching life of the chef and entrepreneur whose Freedom, Maine-based restaurant The Lost Kitchen is so hot that the only way to eat there is to send a postcard and be chosen. Published in April by the Macmillan imprint Celadon Books, the book includes all the ingredients that went into French becoming the success story she is.
Deadline identified this one as a hot title when suitors circled late last month. French struggled mightily to be the culinary toast of town. She grew up in Maine, working at 14 in the diner her father owned and operated, and dreaming of getting away. Food was their common bond in what otherwise was a frosty relationship between father and daughter. French left home to study in Boston to become a doctor, but two years in, her dreams were dashed when she returned home to tell her parents she was pregnant. Her father was furious. Feeling worthless and struggling to support her son, French returned to cooking. She fell in love and married, and opened the first Lost Kitchen restaurant in Belfast, ME.
While her restaurant was soon packed each night, her marriage eventually cratered, partly because of her issues with substance abuse and depression. Rock bottom was hit when she divorced and lost custody of her son. And then she bounced back. First, she served meals from an old silver Airstream while she got herself together and forgave herself for her flaws. That led to the opening of The Lost Kitchen, a restaurant in a picturesque abandoned mill with a staff comprised of women. The restaurant survived the pandemic and is now soaring. So is her uplifting story. Her memoir landed near the top of the bestseller lists when it was published.
French now stars in The Lost Kitchen, a reality series about her restaurant for Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network that has been picked up for a second season to shoot later this summer.
Papandrea, Allie Goss and Steve Hutensky will produce for Made Up Stories alongside Endeavor Content. With credits including the limited series adaptation of Big Little Lies, Made Up Stories is coming off the celebrated Nicole Kidman-Hugh Grant series The Undoing.
Said Papandrea: “Allie and I both reacted so strongly to Erin’s poignant memoir and the stories that led her to the amazing community of women of The Lost Kitchen. The women of Made Up Stories and our partners at Endeavor Content work tirelessly to find stories like Erin’s to put into the world. We were so inspired by her honesty and emotional rawness in writing about her journey to rock bottom (a few times over), her resilience to survive and rebuild, and her inspiring courage to continually grow stronger. It’s an extraordinary story, and we truly believe it’ll make an extraordinary film.”
In a statement, Endeavor Content said: “We are excited to build on our longstanding and exceptional relationship with Made Up Stories in bringing Erin’s powerful story of struggle, resilience, and passion to the screen. We feel honored to help tell this story alongside such brilliant women, and look forward to seeing it come to life.”
French said that “Made Up Stories embodies the same grit, grace and tenacity that my team and I strive for at The Lost Kitchen. We share a passion and drive for celebrating and championing women in our respective industries and beyond. And though I am deeply honored and humbled to know that my story captured the hearts and minds of so many amazingly talented, accomplished, and legendary people in Hollywood, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with Bruna and her team to bring Finding Freedom to life on screen.”
French is repped by Management 360, and the deal was negotiated for French by Management 360, Janis Donnaud of Janis Donnaud & Associates and Peter Grant of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks