Rob developed smell loss in July 2021 and while the AbScent community has been a tremendous support for him, he faces a difficult decision over his beloved career as a chef.
I changed career seven years ago - moving from insurance to becoming a street-food chef. Even before that, my life was very food-orientated - when my family and I went on holiday, we'd base our experience around food. My life and career has revolved around food so to lose both taste and smell has been a shock, it's really hard.
I had spent much of the day preparing a nice BBQ for my family - but as I lit it, I realised I couldn’t smell anything at all. That felt really weird particularly as the lighting of the coals is one of my favourite smells. Then as my family and I started to eat, I realised I couldn’t taste anything. A Covid PCR test came back negative - so I’ll never know if it was that or another viral infection which caused my anosmia.
After six weeks of living without the ability to smell, I was fortunate enough to see an ENT specialist privately. She prescribed nasal steroids as she had limited knowledge about smell loss after infection. The steroids didn’t make anything better, but by my next visit the ENT specialist was able to signpost me to AbScent.
The AbScent Network was a revelation because I realised I could finally talk to people in the same situation. You can write what you want, share any emotion you’re going through whilst living with a smell disorder - and someone will always reply. There are so many people in the Network who are trying to help. Similarly, I have been able to give support to people and share a variety of recipes.
Having smell loss as a chef is not ideal. For the last year, I’ve carried on and tried to live with it, but it has come to the point where I’m looking to have a break from this career. It’s my passion and to give it up when it’s my own business is a tough decision. If GingerRookes wasn’t my own business, I could probably walk away quite easily. It’s tough to know I have to give it up, but it’s become too difficult as I cannot taste my own menus; I’m currently just cooking stuff I know.
I know I can always go back to it; it’s not the end of it forever, hopefully.
You do have to learn to live with smell loss because there isn’t always a quick win. I have found keeping active is really helpful. I did some painting last summer and I play golf regularly. These activities help to clear my mind and stop me focusing on my loss of smell. It is good to find something different to do to stimulate your mind in a different way.
Smell training does work, if you do it regularly - it lets you know that there is ‘something there’. And try to smell everything that you can. Even if you don’t like a food, keep trying it. Try to keep your diet healthy. For example, I still eat rocket because I know it’s good for me, but that was one of the things I could taste before I got Covid again - I could taste the peppery element to it. Now it tastes a bit funny, but I still eat it.
It’s been almost a year since I lost my sense of smell and I know that that’s not actually that long in terms of the recovery stories you hear. It’s encouraging to hear about people getting their sense of smell back after 18 months, two years. I know it might never be exactly as it was before but I remain hopeful about my recovery. I believe 'smell will find a way'.