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NHS hero Laura Tott will not be appearing on tonight's new series of First Dates.
The much-loved waitress has been helping singletons find love on the Channel 4 dating show since the start, but did not take part this time round amid a major shake-up.
Laura, who has travelled the world as part of the Royal Navy with HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, was working in a bar in Windsor when she got the gig through a friend who worked in TV.
While working in the Paternoster Chop House restaurant in Central London, Laura brought smiles to the faces of customers and viewers – and was often caught making hilarious comments while watching the dates.
During that time Laura was hiding a massive secret about her life away from First Dates, as she started training to be a paramedic in 2016 and qualified three years later.
Laura had been juggling her role on the NHS frontline while filming the show, but has been dropped for the latest series amid a major shake-up.
Laura has been working in the First Dates restaurant for years
(Image: Channel 4)
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With First Dates moving up to new restaurant The Refinery in Manchester, Laura was not chosen to take part in the new series.
Maître d' Fred Sirieix bartender Merlin Griffiths and fellow waitress CiCi Coleman will all be back alongside a new cast.
In an emotional Instagram post, Laura explained that she was not coming back for the new series and had been replaced by "new faces".
"As you can see, I do not appear in this series of First Dates.
"They have moved up north to a new restaurant and wanted to freshen up the team for this series with some new local faces among the old faces, so I will not be featuring in this new series of First Dates unfortunately."
Laura posted a video beaming in her PPE as she works on the frontline
Having worked tirelessly to save lives during the pandemic, Laura did admit she was slightly relieved not to be working as a waitress as well.
"To be honest, I don't actually know how I would have fit filming in this year with working during the pandemic," she continued.
"I've needed every day off to chill out so it's actually been a welcomed break. I've missed the whole team though, that's for sure."
Vowing that she will return to the show, Laura added: "This doesn't mean it's over and I'm still very much part of the First Dates family and hopefully I'll be back again real soon."
Filming started in March last year but had to be put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, then started up again in September as restrictions were briefly lifted.
Right at the start of the pandemic, Laura actually tested positive for coronavirus and explained to her fans on social media why she had been out of action for a while.
Laura is one of the most popular members of the team
(Image: COPYRIGHT UNKNOWN)
Laura admitted she had a feeling she had the virus and felt like "absolute rubbish", but was still shocked when she tested positive.
"So after developing symptoms I've just tested positive for Covid-19. I'm OK, just feel like I've got a horrible cold," she explained on Instagram.
"Today's been a weird one, kinda knew I had contracted it but actually hearing the word 'positive' threw me a little.
"I know I've been quieter on social media recently but I've felt like absolute rubbish. Never had any form of flu before so I'm not handling it well. Never slept so much!
"Just wanna thank every single person who is staying in their house and doing their bit still, let's all beat this Rona b****. Just wanna say that I am ok, just feels like a really bad cold."
She added: "So I'm one of the lucky ones. Wanna spread awareness, My first symptoms were complete loss of taste and smell, and then felt like I had sinusitis, I think these symptoms need to be taken way more seriously.
"I had no cough or fever at first, and still have no cough now. Stay safe and well everyone!"
Laura has been working as a paramedic during the pandemic
After bagging herself an interview and securing the job, she shared her time between training to be a paramedic in the Midlands during the week and filming in London at weekends
"It was tiring but I love being at 100mph – I feel like I’m more productive the more I have to do," she told us in November last year.
"I’d train at the ambulance station Monday to Friday in Birmingham then on Friday I’d get the train to London and work Friday night, Saturday and Sunday at the Paternoster Chop House. Then I’d get the train back to Birmingham ready for Monday class again."
When she's working her day job, which can often be 12-hour night shifts, Laura has sometimes been recognised by patients, although they assume they already know her.
"A lot of people say, ‘I know you from somewhere, did you go to school with my sister?’ And I say no, I would never admit it. But then my crew mates dob me in and it’s mortifying," she said.
"But once or twice I’ve been in a property and in the background I’ve been on the TV when First Dates is on. It can be out of context for people and they’ll say, ‘Oh I wouldn’t have pictured you in that uniform’."
Laura does get recognised doing her job
(Image: COPYRIGHT UNKNOWN)
Making sure she's on hand with dating advice, guidance and reassurance for nervous singletons is one of the most important parts of the job for Laura.
"I’d never claim to be a dating expert but you can read people and all you ever say is, ‘relax, be yourself and don’t try too hard'. When they’re really, really trying it can be horrendous," she explained.
"I tell people not to judge a book by its cover. When people walk in you see their date’s face either light up or drop. Some of them write the date off the second they’ve seen them.
"But we’ve seen people turn it around so we always say, ‘be open minded’. If they think, ‘that’s not who I normally go for,’ I’d say ‘but that’s why you are here, because what you normally go for obviously hasn’t worked'.”
First Dates is supposed to be about two singletons finding love – but some viewers are more interested in the staff.
Laura has found herself on the wrong side of unwanted attention if a date has gone badly
The waiting team have become famous in their own right over the years and are always on hand to provide hilarious insights into the dates.
With 42 cameras covering every inch of the restaurant, including GoPros in the loos, even the staff can't escape being captured.
Laura has been at the centre of some very awkward interactions with singletons on their dates.
She said: "If they haven’t been successful, you occasionally get a message from them asking you to go for a drink. But I haven’t replied to them."
First Dates viewers were horrified in 2016 when one rude lad tried to chat her up – seemingly unaware she isn't the one looking for love.
Ben quickly marked himself out as a naughty chap when he blew a kiss to Laura while making his way to his table.
Laura had to remind Ben that she was his waitress
(Image: Channel 4)
The date seemed to be going well, but Ben struggled to keep his eyes off poor Laura, who was just there to do her job.
It got even worse when his date Daisy went to the toilet, and he told Laura he wished they were having dinner.
"You're pretty hot too mind. I'd be very happy if you were sat there to," said Ben.
Feeling incredibly awkward, Laura replied: "Yep, but I'm not. I'm your waitress."
But she actually tried to help him out when Daisy got back and said they both liked her dress.
Furious viewers slammed Ben for his antics, claiming that Daisy was "way too good" for him and was right to "ditch that idiot".
To their delight, Daisy decided that she didn't want to see him again and turned him down for another date.
"If you want to go out with the waitress, go out with her," she amazingly said/
Laura, who is loved-up with her hunky mystery boyfriend, admitted she felt incredibly awkward at that moment.
She tweeted: "If all else fails, hide behind your tray or simply face plant the bar top #cringe."
Let's hope she doesn't have to put up with as much nonsense while working as a paramedic.
*First Dates airs tonight on Channel 4 at 10pm