Monday, 3 May 2010

ITV's Dinner Date - The Date

Lights, camera, action…
I am laughing so much I have to wipe tears away from my eyes and try to regain my composure as I still have more than half the night to go. Three strangers surround me in my kitchen – actually they were strangers a few hours ago but now I would call them friends. Two of these strangers are the camera crew following my every movement and the other stranger is the reason they are all here. Her name is Girl X from London. And tonight (some would say) she is the lucky one, as she is on a blind date with me.

So how did I get here? 
And why is there a camera pointing at my face?
A few months ago a friend of a friend was looking for guys for a TV dinner dating show called ‘Dinner Date'.

'Each episode gives one lucky person the chance to find true love over three meals... each cooked by a blind date in their own home. At the start of each programme a singleton is given five three-course menus to choose from, each tenderly put together by a potential date eager to make an impression. The guest will pick three dinner dates purely on the basis of which menus they prefer. Over the three nights they‘ll meet the people behind the menus, going to each date‘s home for dinner. At the end of those dates, the dinner guest will choose which one of the three hosts they want to take out for a romantic dinner. All three are dolled up and ready to go but two of them will have to stay home - alone.'

My friend told me I would be ‘amazing at it’ – sadly she hasn’t been a victim of my culinary cooking skills. So naturally I said ‘yes’ and the next day proceeded to fill out the forms about my cooking skills (not much), relationship history (not much) and criminal record (not much) – seems to be a theme emerging.  

The next stage was a camera test at my house. I had to try to not look at the camera that was pointed at my face, while not being nervous and portraying confidence, not arrogance – hard work.  They wanted to know how I would get out of potentially embarrassing situations like telling a date she has food stuck in her teeth – my answer was simple – play a game of ‘Simon says’.
My menu
I believe if your going to do something you might as well do it well. With this in mind I designed a menu that would make the night ‘tasty, memorable and most of all fun’ I wanted the girl to feel involved in the date - this should be a night to enjoy – all of this with the aim of getting the menu and me - selected.
A glass of bubbly followed by lightly stuffed peppers and accompanied by grand views of London.
Petite 'design your own toppings' homemade pizzas with a selection of fresh hand picked local ingredients and meats. Accompanied with a side salad.
Al Fresco - White Chocolate fondue with a platter of mixed summer fruits & international delights with a side of local gelato.

As ITV said ‘it oozes personality, fun and style’. I hope so.

The wait
As only 3 out of the 5 menus get selected I had to wait for the call up. I got a call on Friday lunchtime saying that my menu had been selected… game on.

A good friend had one piece of advice for me when he heard I was going to be on a cooking dating show ‘If you don’t want to be a bachelor – don’t cook like one.’ So I had a lot of practise to do… and it was past midnight, the night before the date as I was getting ready to go to sleep. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew (bad pun!). A few thoughts where racing through my mind as I drifted off to sleep: 
'How will ITV create drama?, Will I discover Girl X is actually a man?, Would a food fight be appropriate on a first date?' and 'Is make-your-own pizza the way to a girls heart?'
The pre-date interview
After a night of lots of practise and not as much sleep, the day was finally here. The flat had been transformed from a penthouse into a studio for one of Britain’s leading TV channels. It was time for Chiswick to shine. It was time for the London weather to let me live my dream of ‘Al Fresco’ fondue… or at least a quick drink outside while its not to cold.

Bang on 2pm the camera crew arrived. I was ready to go… The first thing they started with was a profile on me – so basically they had to film me doing a hobby… because of the great British weather we couldn’t film anything outside and exciting. So NO to rock climbing, abseiling and tennis.. so the only YES was – table tennis – but not just any table tennis – kitchen table tennis.

Yes the man who spent a year of his life doing some pretty extreme things  was going to have his debut on British prime time TV playing table tennis on his kitchen table… I think this will be a defining moment of my life.

The Dinner Prep
Being filmed and cooking are both very nerve racking by themselves – combine them and you have a recipe for some very funny moments. They say a watched kettle never boils – they should add that a watched pot of rice never cooks.

Something that normally is very easy intensifies under the constant gaze of a camera crew. Every movement is multiplied. Every cut of a vegetable is now laced with danger as you could slip and lose a finger… it is definitely getting hot in the kitchen.

ITV wanted some drama and decided that my bold attempt to make my own pizza dough should become my nemesis. I agreed it was the only part of the night I was nervous and was vital to a successful night… I couldn’t afford to get this wrong. I had followed the cooking instructions for the pizza dough to the letter and it was all going well… or so I thought. I was in the middle of kneading the dough and it just didn’t feel right. Something was wrong the dough was too sticky. I decided to add some more flour and then some water. I was trying to stay calm and control but was head was telling me this wasn’t good. I rolled out the dough again and started kneading it for the second time and to my relief it felt and looked right.

The pizza dough was taking shape, my confidence was coming back and I had successful defeated my nemesis. I was so confident that I was now spinning pizza dough in the air to make it round. 

The little touches 
I have been on some crazy dates over the years. The people that know me will tell you I always try to put a Chris ‘twist’ onto anything I do – paying a busker to play an girlfriends favourite song, making paper boats and floating them down the Thames or hiring a rustic movie theatre… I had a few subtle touches for tonight.

I had decided to start the evening with a glass of champagne combined with the ‘grand views of London’ from our balcony but felt this needed a little ‘twist’. I already had strawberries that I was going to use later that evening. I had heard that putting a strawberry into your champagne was classy. So therefore putting handpicked strawberries from the garden would be amazing. I placed a couple of strawberries in the garden and I was ready.

The Date
I had promised myself that whoever was waiting behind my front door I would give them a night to remember - a night of fun, laughter and (hopefully) some inspiring food. All I wanted out of this night was a Girl that would get into the spirit of it and have some fun - luckily I got all of that and more. 
Some highlights as my memory as starting to fade (you’ll have to wait until it’s on ITV to see everything):

My first impressions of Girl X was great - as it was laughter from the moment she entered my flat. We both exchanged story's about how funny it was to have a camera crew filming everything  (Girl X having to walk up and down the street a few times so they could film it from different angles).

So we started with champagne and grand views of London. Then it was onto the second part of my starter - 'lightly stuffed' peppers. They looked brilliant as I got them out of the oven and placed them on the plates ready to be served up. It was time to add my special touch - a sprinkling off Paprika. I got the packet and started sprinkling but it all came pouring out of the packet, covering the plate with paprika and causing the first of many laughs to occur.

Through out the night I found out that Girl X was originally from Essex and was currently working in marketing and events. Girl X had just run the London Marathon, would shortly be celebrating a big bday in style and was slightly competitive. Ok - Girl X was very competitive. 

We started making the pizzas. Suddenly it was getting very competitive and Girl X was right into this. She was wearing a very nice dress and was getting worried about it - never fear. I remembered we had an apron (that had probably never been worn before) in the 3rd draw. Girl X didn't hesitate to put it on. There was pieces of flour and dough going everywhere now. These where going to be some interesting creations.

We had just taken our pizzas out of the oven and where letting them cool down. Girl X decided she wanted some pepper on her's. Now at the point I must add that we have a very fancy pepper grinder. It's one of those automatic grinders that light up when you press the button on top. Girl X pressed the button and the whole thing exploded. There was batteries and pepper everywhere. Her Pizza was covered. At this point I just lost it and started crying tears of laughter… it was hilarious. I couldn't contain myself, i was in the corner of my kitchen, collapsing in pain. I had now just about seen everything in my 28 years ... life was completed. 

Throughout the night we discussed the usual things like travel, music and movies. Which lead onto some interesting conversations about favourite children's birthday party games and whether a 'Jaffa cake' is a cake or a biscuit.

So now it was the last part of the evening and my favourite part of any meal - dessert. I had chosen to make  'Al Fresco' White Chocolate fondue. The great british weather had let me down again so it couldn't be eaten outside. Now a few hours earlier when I had been preparing this part I had added quite a few New Zealand treats (pinky, buzz bar) to the platter. ITV had asked me if it was a test - they concluded that If Girl X liked the NZ treats then naturally she would like me. ITV's logic kind of made sense but it also puts alot of pressure on chocolate from a small island nation.

Girl X did eat some NZ treats but that's as much as I will tell at the moment.

So that it was it. Like a hurricane that came and went - the night was over. I said goodbye to Girl X and the camera crew lead her outside to be interviewed about the date, while I waited patiently inside. Slowly digesting the night that had just happened. I was due to be interviewed about my thoughts on the date shortly.

I couldn't stop laughing... The combination of a cooking a meal, a 1st date and a camera crew following our every move It all felt very crazy and surreal. 

So now it was my turn to be interviewed. I sat on my couch and proceed to provide some information on the date that had just happened to me. They wanted to know what I thought of Girl X?, Would I want to see her again? and most importantly What did she think of the food?... 

I was very happy with how the had gone. I had got more than I wanted so I was very stoked. I wanted a fun, enjoyable night and I certainly got that. I wasn't entirely sure what she thought of the food but as she took some pizza home for her lunch the next day - it must have been pretty good.

The camera crew left as the sun started to set over Chiswick. I was exhausted. I rarely get tired but all the preparation and thought that had gone into the date had taken it out of me. I sat down on the chair next to the table and looked around at my house. It looked like an abandoned movie set. All the candles had been blown out (safety first) and the brand new table cloth was still 'glowing' white. There was pizza and leftover food everywhere. I smiled too myself and thought the clean up can wait, it's time to go downstairs and try to explain tonight to my housemates.

To find out if I get chosen for a second date click here


Mark Lincoln said...

Brilliant post, Chris. I can't wait to see the show.

Anonymous said...

an't wait to see it, you are such a super star! x

Anonymous said...

can't wait to see it, you are such a super star! x

TJ said...

Your a legend mate! Great to read your version of things and the show was seriously hilarious.

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