(All imagery care of Channel 4 )
I always know when Come Dine With ME (CDWM) is back on repeat on one of the many Channel 4 channel variations… and that is because of the random Facebook friend requests. Its a massive complement that people saw my escapades and wanted to try and be friends after – but just so funny that it even happened! (And also I am not being rude by ignoring – FB is for close friends, find me on Twitter and Instagram!)
CWDM is one of the most cult, watched, hangover daytime programmes – that has become an institution in the UK. Dave Lamb provides the hilarious dialogue over hundreds of programmes where wannabe cooks try to show off their talents to the random and often tricky guests they invite into their home. As a student I watched it AVIDLY – sorry, I mean obviously whilst I was studying hard and not being distracted whatsoever… right.
But whilst watching I constantly told everyone ‘I could win that’.
Cue 2012 – I applied and got through a couple of rounds – phone interviews, then a filmed ‘interview’ where (just in case) I still put out a mega buffet of breakfast treats for the film crew. What did you know, it worked! And so I found myself on one of my favourite programmes, and would like to share everything that happened but to make things easy…these are the questions that always get asked.
“OMG you were on CDWM – did you actually get on with the other people?”
Yes – so many times yes! These four other random folk plucked out of the Midlands (where I was living for Uni at the time) and put together could have been awful, but it was the opposite. We had:
- the gorgeous sassy Mum Gemma who kicked off the week
- the delightful (you’d think dower Brummie from his accent, but so not the case – so dry he made us cry) Andy who gave us a beatnik evening (and I won the drawing comp, obvs),
- Jules the stunning human being who’s love for dogs and beer was second to none,
- and finally Lloyd, the larger than life character who took my red theme to the extremes!
And since the programme we’ve met up so many times – in fact we’re due and perhaps this blog will make it happen.
“So is everything we see real or are you told to say things?”
Yes and no. Come on, it’s TV. When you have your interviews you tell them so much about your personality. I grew up with home-cooked food and hate things from packets and jars – but I also grew up as a polite Briton who enjoys everything in front of them regardless, if I was in another persons home (yeah Mum you did good). So when I was served steak with a packet sauce I kept quiet about my feelings, but then I was asked by the crew how I felt – which was then filmed.
They were only filming my true thoughts- so its not fake – and its their job to get the juicy content from you. Hey it’s TV baby.
The best thing that we did as a group at the beginning of the week, was say to each other – we know that editing and questioning might make us sound negative – and its all part of the fun. Let’s not dwell on it or let it decrease our enjoyment of a phenomenally random week that would stay with us forever. And it worked.
“Do you have to pay for ingredients?”
No – they give you a budget but I went way over. Speculate to accumulate in my eyes. I had been lucky enough to spend 3 days with those lovely people before my night. So I bought them presents that I thought they would like. Yeah you might call it creeping – but if you know me you’d know it just came from the heart. I am generous to the point of bankruptcy.
I just love seeing people smile from something I have done.
“What did you cook?”
So I had just been travelling to South East Asia, and I also just love Thai food – so it was an easy choice. It was also 2012 and in the Midlands Thai restaurants were few and far between, so it was a bit more niche than perhaps it would be today. For some weird reason on the programme I said I had done a cooking course in Thailand – which I hadn’t, but I had cooked a 10 course dinner for both a hen do and family before doing it on the day for CDWM.
I just felt I could showcase skills, and flavour.
First up – Trio of Thai Treats – which consisted of a Fragrant Chicken Drumstick, Thai Fishcake and Sticky Drumstick. Lloyd said how he wasn’t a fan of Thai but this was the best endeavour he’d ever had – result. Jules was a veggie so instead of giving her a random veggie side dish and pretending it is something exciting (yes I am looking at YOU everyone else), I made a veggie version of each dish.
YES OKAY MY ‘RIB’ VEGGIE SAUSAGE LOOKED LIKE A POO BUT AT LEAST I TRIED.
Now for the main – I thought that one main wasn’t enough – I wanted to tantalise all the tastebuds. I went for both a ‘Khao San Road’ Pad Thai and a Massaman curry. When you’re in Thailand you pay around £1.20 on the street for the quickest and tastiest meals straight from the stall. It’s part of the whole experience out there and I wanted to replicate it in the Pad Thai – delightfully full of lime, chilli, garlic, coriander, peanut crush and taramind – my secret ingredient.
Massaman literally means ‘Muslim’ in Thai – and it is all about the ‘journey’ the curry came from old Persia to Thailand – which is why it has such a depth of flavour. It takes days to make the real paste by roasting the seeds and crushing them repeatedly. But its so worth it.
You can add any meat or veg in my opinion – but beef and potato work well if you’re leaving it to cook low and slow.
Finally – a Thai Syllabub – I created this actually quite simple recipe off the back of my favourite things in South East Asia… the MARKETS! I just love mad vegetables. I love the look of odd fruits. I love the colour, the shape, the prickly touch, the crunch or suck, the bashing or crushing – these exotic encapsulations of joy that hold nutrients and vitamins that the West can only wonder at. I chose a Dragon fruit jus to go alongside the rambutan – with my creamy white chocolate mix. It worked, and it was simple.
“What was your ‘Entertainment'”
Well funnily enough at the time I was still at university about to move to London to start at the amazing PR company I am happily still with. But that didn’t fit well with my ‘story’ so as a Massage Therapist who had studied in Thailand (I learned from a blind monk in the Mountains who taught us the difference in touch between a grain of sand, salt and sugar… and yes my massages are pretty freaking good according to 10 years of treatment) that was what they decided my ‘job’ was.
In light of this I showed some of the more ‘interesting’ moves, and then tried to teach everyone how to do some simple gentle shoulder moves. Lloyd happened to be wearing The Red Suit Of Death meaning poor Gemma had to caress his schwetty shoulders…Mmmmmmm.
So yeah – my entertainment suddenly felt like it was pulling down my scores. ARGH!
Do you actually go home in those Taxi’s?
No – you circle round and round, slightly drunk talking about desserts and scores until they’re happy.
How long is the whole thing then? Did you take time off work?
It is a full-time job! Lloyd carried on working which amazed me, but we started dinner at about 5pm, finished one night at 2am. Then you film the ‘menu reveal’ in the day. It is LONG and TIRING – thank-god everyone was so bloody amazing,
“What, you actually won?!”
Yeah – you know what, despite my dodgy entertainment I got an 8 from every single contestant. Yeah boiiiiiiiii. I gave my then husband £100 to clean up, I gave £100 to an orphanage in Africa my friend worked at, and then I took the final £800 with me the next day to move to London. Talk about meant to be.
If after all of this you want to watch – have a peek here for Gemma’s day that kicked it off, then veg out and watch them all! And if you want the recipes then give me a poke and I will put them up. It’s on my list.