a person standing in a kitchen: Poppy O'Toole now has more than 100,000 followers on her TikTok channel.

© Courtesy of Poppy O’Toole
Poppy O’Toole now has more than 100,000 followers on her TikTok channel.

“What do you do for a living?” It’s a question that can tell you a lot about a person, their interests and the stage of their life they are at. For the past decade, my answer was always easy: “a chef.” This would often be met with excitement, followed by: “Oh, I’d love to be a chef!”, “Imagine living with a chef!” or, “Ooh, I bet your dinners are incredible.”

But honestly, the life of a chef was far from glamorous. I’d often rush home in the afternoon in the 45 minutes I had between a split shift to walk my dog, having left the house at 6am. Despite cooking professionally, my own meals often consisted of a store bought sandwich that I would grab before returning to work for the second shift of the day. On those days, I’d be lucky to get the last train home before midnight. And on my days off? There was a lot of sleep, television, more sleep, and not so much in the way of delicious food being prepared.

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I’ve worked in professional kitchens for almost a decade, having learned my craft in a Michelin-starred restaurant in Birmingham, England, before moving to London in 2017. During those years I dedicated up to seventy hours a week and often sacrificed any sense of a social life. But 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect it had on the hospitality industry, changed everything.

In March this year when I was faced with being laid off, I had to reconsider everything. Like many in the hospitality