If 10,000 phone calls sounds like a lot, try sorting through more than 10,000 note cards.

The Lost Kitchen – the secluded, seasonal restaurant in a refurbished old mill in Freedom that was inundated with 10,000 phone calls in 24 hours for reservations last year – is now being swamped with snail-mail requests for one of its coveted 40 seats a night. Chef Erin French announced in March changes in how the restaurant handles reservations, hoping to make the system more manageable after the phone calls swamped her three phone lines last year.

But it doesn’t look as if French’s culinary star is falling anytime soon.

Cards from as far away as Hong Kong and Malaysia have been delivered to the tiny Waldo County town of 719 since April 1, the first day the restaurant began accepting reservation requests for the season, said Michael Dutton, French’s adviser and fiance. French was busy organizing the requests Tuesday and was unavailable for comment, Dutton said.

More cards poured in this year than phone calls last year, “how much more I don’t know,” Dutton said. “Over 10,000 pieces of mail.”

“I was as nervous about this as anybody, and I have to tell you it is remarkable, the outpouring. The people who really want to eat at the restaurant are game.”

The Lost Kitchen will open for the season May 11, and remain open through New Year’s Eve.

It is generally open four nights a week through Columbus Day, with just one seating per night. The restaurant’s popularity exploded last year after lots of glowing national press and word-of-mouth. French also published a cookbook last year that has been nominated for a James Beard Foundation Book Award.

Previously, diners who wanted a reservation at The Lost Kitchen could start calling the restaurant at midnight April 1, but they often had to redial for hours to get through. French has said that she wanted to create a new system that was less stressful, with “no busy signals, no full voice mailboxes.” Instructions on The Lost Kitchen’s website asked diners to mail in a 3-by-5 note card with their name and contact information.

Since April 1 was Easter, cards could be postmarked March 31, but they had to arrive sometime between April 1 and April 10.

Dutton said Tuesday that cards have come in from 47 of the 50 states, including Alaska and Hawaii. The restaurant’s staff has been picking up two to six trays of envelopes from the local post office every morning for the past week, he said. The post office semi-sorts them by date and region, he said.

A fixed-price meal at The Lost Kitchen costs $105, before wine and tip, but the price tag hasn’t stopped people from sending heartfelt notes pleading for a table, and posting selfies on social media that show them as they mail in their cards.

None of these efforts will help your chances, according to the reservation instructions posted on The Lost Kitchen’s website.

Dutton said the stacks of mail “looked pretty daunting.”

On Wednesday, French and her staff will begin randomly selecting cards and calling people, and the lucky diners who are chosen will get to make their reservation. The math is not on their side, however; over the course of the season, there are only enough seats for approximately 5,000 people.

Those who aren’t chosen, or who can’t get the date they want, can ask to be put on a waiting list.

Last year it took the staff three to five days, working 15-plus hours a day, to call diners and confirm reservations, Dutton said. “I imagine this will be similar to that.”

The cards may be a kinder, gentler way to accept reservations, but Dutton noted that people’s chances of getting a table will be about the same as last year.

“It’s still an odds game,” he said.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

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