TV series Come Dine With Me has become a cult foodie favourite. Jon Perks spoke to one woman who experienced the reality cookery show first hand – with a little help from Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell.
There’s usually a vegetarian. There’s nearly always a fussy eater. Sometimes they’re one and the same. There’ll be lots of drinking, the odd argument, maybe some flirting and the occasional burst of tears before bedtime.
Since first airing in January 2005, Channel 4’s Come Dine With Me – in which a group of strangers take it in turn to cook for one another – has made a star of faceless narrator Dave Lamb and been the catalyst for hundreds of groups across the country to stage their own “CDWM” nights, complete with scoring cards, the odd cookery mishap and, hopefully, a fair portion of good food and funny moments to look back on in years to come.
Jenn Brack, a sales executive from Norton Canes in Staffordshire, was already staging monthly dinner parties with three friends when an email was circulated around the office looking for contestants for the next series of Come Dine With Me.
“My boss said ‘you’ve got to do that, Jenn’ but I said ‘no, I don’t mind cooking but I don’t want a camera in my face,’” she recalls.
“Before I knew it, I’d filled in an application form and they rang me the next day – you don’t have time to say no!”
After two interviews over the phone, the show’s producers quickly arranged a visit to Jenn’s home at the farm she shares with fiancé Steve and four-year-old son Zak.
“Because it all happened so quickly, I didn’t have time to get nervous,” she admits. “We did the show the next week; that was probably three weeks from the first interview to filming the show... you don’t have time to back out.”
Jenn describes her Come Dine With Me as a “great experience” but admits the week of dining out, drinking and cooking with three strangers – all in front of the TV cameras – was tiring and, for some, emotional.
Have a good time, try not to be nervous, try not to get into any arguments are her top tips for any wannabe diners.
“I loved it, it was a great experience; I would recommend it, but you’ve got to be up for a long week.
“When you’re watching the show I always think I’d know what to cook; something that I know how to cook, something I can pop in the oven and not be in the kitchen faffing around getting nervous.”
Living on a farm, Jenn made the most of produce at hand; homegrown leeks and potatoes for her vichysoisse starter; beef from the Aberdeen Angus and Hereford cattle to go in the main course of steak and Guinness pie, and her own chicken’s eggs in the chocolate pavlova dessert.