After graduating college in the middle of a pandemic last May, Michelle Kaplin found herself in need of a hobby. She was bored, uninspired, and clocking in around 12 hours of screentime thanks to endless TikTok scrolling. (Raise your hand if you've been there.) It turns out, her stay-at-home savior came in the form of a movie — Julie & Julia, to be exact.
"I am obsessed with the movie Julie & Julia," Michelle told POPSUGAR. "[My family] watched that in quarantine and I was like, what if I just cook a recipe?" But once Michelle picked up Chrissy Teigen's first Cravings cookbook, one recipe turned into something much more. She found her challenge: cook every recipe in the book before her job started up in January. To keep herself accountable, she started posting her daily dishes on Tiktok. Her audience, quite literally, ate it up.
"I like the challenge. I like that feeling when you get to the end of it and you're like, wow, I just made 100 recipes," Michelle said. Although she hasn't cooked 100 recipes (yet), she is well over the halfway point with over 50 prepared foods posted on her @michkapcooks account. "I think also the TikTok interaction has really been motivating for me," she continued. "I like hearing people when people comment and say like, 'Oh my God, I made this recipe and loved it.' 'Oh, I tried this, it worked a little better.'"
As Michelle — a self proclaimed "home cook" — tackled each recipe, her family got to be the lucky guniea pigs in her experiment. "My parents loved the mushroom risotto. My dad loved the meatloaf that I made. My mom loved the sweet potato gnocchi. She keeps asking for it," she said. Ironically, these are also a few of the recipes Michelle found the most difficult. I guess hard work really does taste sweeter.
Michelle doesn't deem herself a professional chef, which is part of the reason why she was so drawn to Chrissy's cookbook in the first place. "I was very attracted to making foods that I wanted to eat, that tasted good, and I would love to share with people," she explained. "Made by someone who gets what it feels like to just cook because you want to, not because it's your profession."
In a matter of weeks, Michelle will complete her last recipe and close the cookbook. She said, on the surface, she hopes she's a "better cook" by the end of it and a "better communicator" with those she shares her cooking with. Her dreams, deep down, are even more personal. "I wanted to prove to myself that I could start and finish a project and trust that I would make it through. Be proud of myself, work hard, and feel inspired," she said. "I think at the end of it, when I look back, it will be very validating to say I started this hard, didn't-know-where-it-was-going project, and now I made it here. I'm really proud of that."