A former bartender has shared how he quit his job and released his own cookbook – after only learning how to cook in lockdown and building a following of 580,000 on TikTok with his unique recipe videos.
In April 2020, while furloughed from his bartending job and bored at home, Bartek, 25, from London took to the kitchen to kill time – with no idea that the hobby would end up changing his life.
He started by making a cheesecake that his younger sister Tosia, 16, thought was so impressive that he should post it on TikTok.
While he had always dabbled with cooking his own food – and had previously worked flipping burgers at Gourmet Burger Kitchen – Bartek had no experience with presentation or cooking meals from scratch.
The TikTok star, who is originally from Poland, decided to give the video-sharing app a go, and his second post – creamy garlic and parmesan chicken – went viral, reaching 500,000 people overnight.
Finding it fun to experiment with new flavours and put new spins on classic dishes – including fried chorizo mac and cheese balls, spicy mango margarita prawns and steak and Eggs Benedict – he continued posting videos, filming the process on his phone and editing the clips himself.
His audience swelled and is currently sitting at 580,000 dedicated followers who love to see what creation Bartek will come up with next.
He first learned to cook visually by watching his mum, Mariola, whip up traditional Polish recipes, which the author said made him “fall in love with food”.
But he didn’t start cooking for himself properly until last year.
Posting each attempt at a new dish on TikTok, Bartek learnt to perfect recipes by trial and error, finding the process “creative” and “relaxing”.
The budding chef has been so successful that he was able to quit his bartending job for good in August 2021 and has now launched his own book of recipes with HP Custom Content called Let’s Munch: The Chronicles.
“I’ve always been in the kitchen with my mum so she taught me a lot, but I only really got into cooking because of lockdown,” Bartek told Jam Press.
“I filmed my first video and taught myself from there – I didn’t spend hours learning.
“I never thought I was artistic or creative in any way before, but since I started cooking I just put some music on, give myself two or three hours [to try out a recipe] and I’m in the zone. It’s like time away from my own head.
“With TikTok I came into it at a very good time, when everyone was at home cooking, so it made it easier for my audience to grow.
“It all happened so quickly – about four months after I started, I had a real following and people started to remake my recipes.
“Over lockdown, I’d film a recipe and then the next day 10 people had made it too.
“I just took things day by day and fell into it.”
Bartek believes his success might not just be down to the food, but also thanks to his image.
He said: “There aren’t many cooks nowadays that the younger generation can relate to.
“You have Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver but not many younger people – especially from London.
“I think young people see me as a London boy doing it and talking like them, and think ‘yeah maybe I can do something like that’.”
Bartek originally did a degree in economics but quickly realised it wasn’t for him.
While he wasn’t sure what exactly he would end up doing, he admits his new career path has come as a surprise.
He said: “I enjoy it a lot so I don’t really find it difficult, and most of the recipes I can do on the first try.
“Now I’m doing this full-time, I have a lot more time to make everything from scratch.
“I like to do a lot of different recipes and have variety and I think that’s what people are drawn to.”
He has now launched his recipe book, featuring some of his most popular dishes – including Korean beef bulgogi, buffalo chicken Alfredo and budget-friendly ramen.
As well as having physical copies of the recipes, each dish comes with a QR code so fans can cook along with the home chef.
A recent hit on TikTok has been his stuffed French toast, which racked up 800,000 likes and was viewed more than 4.5 million times.
The secret? Soaking a brioche loaf in custard before stuffing it with indulgent marshmallow spread and frying it up.
The simple hack went down a treat with his followers.
Meanwhile his stacked burger recipe was also a hit, with more than 175,000 people liking the post.
One person commented: “It’s a 10/10 from me.”
“Omg this looks so good,” said another viewer.
Someone else added: “I tried it and it was sooooo good.” [sic]
“Looks mad tasty,” another user agreed.
On other posts, viewers have said “Gordon Ramsay would like this” and commented that Bartek should have his own cooking show.
Speaking about his change of career and TikTok stardom, Bartek said: “It’s been a bit of a shock but I’ve accustomed to it quite well.
“I don’t like focusing on the numbers so I won’t make a video just for it to go viral – I want to keep it natural.
“I’m just taking things day by day and enjoying it.”