Thanks to a stroke of wisdom, I’m not involved. Audible sigh of relief from me and my friends. However, the story nearly had a different ending.
The premise of Come Dine With Me, if you’re not familiar with the show, is over five days five strangers from all walks of life take turns to host the perfect dinner party for each other. At the end of the week, one of the hosts wins a thousand pounds.
Before Christmas my partner picked up a flyer inviting applications from people with a passion for cooking who want to demonstrate their skills. I had watched the show years before and found it entertaining and thought, as my partner had, this sounded just like me. Great chef, tick. Good hostess tick. Great opportunity to wow the watching public with raw food, double tick! So I applied.
My initial email application (“raw foodie, aged 42″) prompted a speedy response with a phone interview that same day. I was asked how I would rate my ‘cooking’ out of 10 – well, truthfully, 10. I live alone, I have my own home, I have a big kitchen dining room, I’m slightly unusual. All seemed to line up for me being an ideal candidate for the show. And indeed, after a further phone interview they called back to short-list me for informal filming at my home in the first week of January. How exciting, I thought!
What I didn’t yet realise was an ideal candidate for what. As a non-watcher of TV, non-drinker, eater of raw food, and yogini, I was really going to be a curious creature. What was I letting myself in for? Being somewhat naïve, I thought this would be a fabulous opportunity to spread the word about raw food by introducing 4 people to the delights on daytime TV. As well as me being a charming and charismatic hostess, of course. Alarm bells should have sounded when they kept asking “who would be your nightmare dinner guest?”
Reality dawned as I spoke to a few friends who, it turns out, are avid fans of the show. They also know me and my sensitive nature. The intial “yes go for it, what a great opportunity to get raw food out there” evolved into strong warnings to be cautious: “Have you actually watched the show?” So I watched some more episodes on 4OD to find out what I was opening myself up for. I imagined myself in the hot seat and found myself squirming. My friends warned me that I’d be set against a full-blooded meat eater, and, I suspected, the hunting-fishing-boozing type.
What did I plan to offer for entertainment, they asked? Eek, I didn’t even know this was part of the show’s recipe, there was no entertainment laid on when I had last seen the programme. How about showing my guests some yoga? came the suggestion. No, totally inappropriate: yoga and dinner do not mix. All I could come up with was a demo on making chocolates to go with after-dinner coffee.
Ah coffee, yet another thing I don’t have in the house. Nor wine. I wasn’t even sure I had 5 dinner plates. Only 4 wine glasses. And definitely not 5 chairs. This was going to be quite some undertaking to prepare my menu and my home so I’d feel comfortable inviting round 4 strangers for dinner and a TV crew, and then however many viewers.
In the end I decided to withdraw my application on the grounds that I didn’t have the time to invest and I wasn’t sure I was thick-skinned enough for either the guests or the acerbic voiceover. The £1,000 prize didn’t even enter into the equation. Apologies to the TV industry if I’ve misjudged your motives.
So instead of full time practising my raw dishes, decluttering my home (at least the shed had a ‘colonic’ to make some space) and finishing off the decorating (usual story, I’ve ‘only’ lived here for 4 years)… I’ve been full time working on my web design business, relaunching my raw food website with a fresh new look and setting up a few workshops. A better investment of time, I feel, in my own future rather than my “15 minutes of fame” on daytime TV. That may come one day, but I’d prefer to choose a more sympathetic environment.
Instead of appearing on Come Dine With Me, I’ve been entertaining the idea of having a gourmet raw dinner party at home with friends. 100% reality, but not on TV. I wish all the very best to the 5 who are dining in Bath homes this week.
And tonight, instead of Dining with You (whoever you were going to be), I will be enjoying a celebration dinner at Bath’s most excellent vegetarian restaurant Demuth’s – not raw, not yet. However, I’m teaching an Introduction to Raw Food workshop at Demuth’s Vegetarian (un)Cookery School on Sunday 11 March so who knows what will be on the menu in a few months?