A few Fridays ago Charlie and I found ourselves in front of an episode of ‘Dinner Date’, the blind date cooking show on ITVBe. As with most Olympic sports I declared that I could and would never ever do that, followed by a slight modification of my position 45 minutes later, namely how I would conduct my date(s) better than the three guys we’d just watched publicly audition for a second date with a hitherto unknown woman.
As fate would have it, sometime in September I received an invite asking me to apply to be on the new series. Funny they should ask; I’ve always said that, if given the opportunity I could and would enjoy being on the show.
Once I had made it through the screen application we began negotiations.
Like, I’m sure, everyone else, I wanted to be a ‘picker’. This is the side with all the power. The pickers get to choose from five people’s menus; from there they go on three dates and then choose one lucky person to have a final dinner with. Purely from a free food perspective, this was the way to go…I wasn’t given this option.
After agreeing to host, I had to put a menu together. It had to be fun and easy to make, so I could concentrate more on my date and less on extinguishing any chat-spoiling kitchen fires. More importantly I wanted to be one of the three to be picked, so I needed some kind of edge. I decided Mexican would do the trick. Being in the fashion biz, I used this as an excuse to drop a few sartorial puns in to my proposed menu. It took all my powers of restraint to resist including a double-breasted chicken course, just so I could put it on the menu, but resist I did. I wasn’t exactly covering my bases. Here’s hoping she’s not allergic to lime.
Day one of filming was for the personal profile section of the show. If you’ve ever watched before, this is usually the most cringe-inducing portion. You chat for 60 minutes which they somehow whittle down to the worst 30 seconds for the edit! We chatted a fair amount about my career before abruptly moving into more romantic territory. For some reason this was trimmed down to me insisting on first date kissing, which, in fairness, turned out to be a recurring theme.
On the Sunday before ‘date week’ the mystery lady sat down, went through the five menus and picked out three she would like to try. Sunday evening I received the call to let me know that my menu had been chosen…hooray!...and that I was to be date number one the following night…aaaaggghhh!!! Not only would I have to make an impression that would see her through the charms of her next two dates, I also had to get everything ready the next day. No pressure then.
Monday was date day and I was far from ready. Luckily for me I’m an early riser and work for myself! Thankfully I had most of the food already. I figured on the off-chance I was chosen it would pay to have a practice run under my belt, which had taken place at la casa de Thompson a couple of nights previously.
Of course there’s more to a successful evening than just turning out an impeccably dressed fajita. Mostly this revolved around more food and a steady supply of appropriately themed alcohol. Doing Mexican, I decided to start by making margarita cocktails. I then had a cactus salad side with the main which would be fun, as I have never tried cactus before and I guessed that she probably wouldn’t have either. NEVER AGAIN!
Tequila would be on tap as much throughout the evening. Finally, my piece de resistance (‘scuse my off-theme French) would be a papier-mache piñata donkey to beat until it relented and gave up its belly full of sweets. Good, silly, Dinner Date fun.
As it turned out, the piñata wasn’t too difficult. I spent most of the morning trying to find some edible cactus and good quality tequila, but by 2pm was home again just in time to let in the film crew.
Usually I’m quite methodical when cooking. I tend to do what I’m told with recipes and tidy as I go. With a camera in my face and a crew watching, however, it was a different story. The lemon pie in particular was testing my culinary skills and patience. Thankfully the camera didn’t quite pick that mood up.
As date hour (six o’clock) approached, I was still in the kitchen prepping and nowhere near dressed-to-impress. So with ten minutes to go there was just time to throw on a Hawkins & Shepherd shirt (obviously), a squirt of aftershave and I was ready to date.
I had an inkling that my date was somebody well-known, but hadn’t picked up any more helpful tips than that. Now I started running through the celeb rosters, ticking off possibilities. During the day I hadn’t had time to worry about dating nerves. With five minutes until kick-off they finally arrived; those horrible, yet wonderful pre-date jitters. I’m neither a blind date lothario, nor a seasoned TV veteran and here I was about to do both…
…then the doorbell rang. I took a deep breathe, opened the door and welcomed Amy Childs into my house!
Luckily for me, Amy was amazing and made me feel at ease from the moment she walked in. It probably helped that one of us was used to carrying on life as usual in front of a film crew. In fact this was a much smaller crew than she was used to for TOWIE.
I think it was pretty obvious from the TV how excited I was. Amy looked stunning and I was blown away. It's easy to think of Amy as that person in TOWIE but she is much more than that: a business woman, a successful one at that, reality TV star, beautician, fashion designer, great conversationalist and fellow dog owner.
The date itself went well, but if you haven’t already seen it I’ll leave you to see for yourself
Once the date was over, it was out of my hands. Of course some things could have gone better, but plenty of things could have gone worse. Most hiccups were purely due to the chillies. Once it was done with I put it to the back of my mind, until it was time for the reveal a couple of weeks later.
The final filming was for the reveal part of the show. This is where you either open your door to the dreaded silver cloche hiding a microwave meal for one or get whisked away for a dinner date that you don't have to cook.
My filming started again at about 2pm, so immediately I thought there was no chance I was getting picked. We weren’t going out to dinner just after lunch! Fair enough though; I mean, I made her eat cactus. Who wants more of that?
The film crew gave nothing away, so as the doorbell rang I was already playing in my head what to say when I receive the meal for one and what my bothered-but-not-that-bothered face should look like. Then to my surprise Amy was standing there asking me out on another date. WHAT?! She looked even better than I remembered.
For our date we were taken to 409 restaurant in Clapham.
This was much more relaxed and, although being filmed again, the pressure was off; I just tried to enjoy the date and get to know Amy better. We had plenty of wine, fantastic food and yet another round of tequila shots. Once again I had to do halve of hers...lightweight.
Really, who would go on one of those blind date shows?