Come Dine With Me: how do they find these people?!

Certainly watching the first episodes in the New Year, set in Margate, you have to ask the question where do they find these nutters? The Italian guy with the amazing hair and the awful attitude; the camp gay guy who can’t keep his hands to himself; the pregnant woman happy to lick spilled dessert off the floor; the builder who knows everything there is to know about food and the woman on the verge of emigrating.

Even I wondered how they find such crazy people, and I am a Come Dine With Me contestant!

Yes, I can reveal, now that the TV listings have been published with my name in, that I will be appearing on the show for its next outing in Nottingham, and it will be broadcast in the week starting with Valentine’s Day 31st January ((eek, they brought forward the date by three weeks!)). My cooking night is Tuesday.

And how did I get selected? Well, as I blogged here it all started in December 2009. I emailed the show saying I’d like to be on it. Digging back in the gmail folder, it turns out all I did was send them my name, address and contact details. No bio, no talking about myself, just contact details and links to twitter and my blog.

After that, radio silence for nearly a year, until October 2010.

Then a phone call from a producer, which I missed the first time around, and left to my voicemail. They’d like to talk to me about the show. Can I have a think about the sorts of things I’d like to talk about and phone them back.

I had a think and a very few sets of text messages sent to nearest and dearest, most of which were replied to with versions of enthusiastic “Wahey, go for it!” So I phoned back and left messages, and then they phoned back and we spoke. I outlined two menus as requested, a French inspired one and a hyper-local one, they took copious notes, and then right at the end of quite a long conversation, we talked about availability. I was available in the week they wanted to film, but it was pretty dodgy in the weeks leading up to it, and in particular in the weeks they were doing home visits, I was actually on honeymoon.

The phoned back a few days later and made an appointment that just fit around the dates I was away – having, I think, made some changes so that they could come to Nottingham before I left.

Two lovely ladies, a location director and an assistant producer, dressed in leggings and knitware, came around one Sunday afternoon, and I showed them round my house, answered questions about cooking and my personality and preferences. They got me to tell them jokes, show them the rooms I’d tidied specially and the rooms that got neglected, asked the odd difficult question (“What does this room say about you?” / “Erm, well, it says I should have tried to remake my airing cupboard four years ago when they finished putting the solar panel in, but never got around to it”).

They were equipped with a video camera and taped me as we went around, filmed all the interviews, and took digital pictures of everything hanging on my walls. And we did a bit of something I’d get awfully familiar with: they stood side by side, one with the camera, one with a list of notes and questions to ask. The one with the notes would ask the questions and I’d have to reply, making sure I totally ignored the camera, and looked at and replied to the one asking the questions. It is pretty tricky to ignore a camera pointed right at you.

At the end of the visit, which lasted less than an hour, they said thank you very much, they’d be in touch, and left. At one point they even said that if I wasn’t successful at this round I should definitely re-apply.

I subsequently learned that in the course of those visits, they were seeing about 50 people over a number of days. They didn’t mention that at the time, and to me, it felt like a fairly seemless progression phone-call, visit, another phonecall to say yes, you’ll be on the show. Presumably dozens of people were actually screened out at each stage for any number of reasons.

I got the phonecall to say I’d definitely be on shortly before going on honeymoon – I received the call on my mobile while I was in Nottingham Council’s new HQ, and given I was surrounded by Council staff, I had to be extremely restrained in my reaction. It was basically “Oh. My. God.”

The enormity dawned.

9 comments on “Come Dine With Me: how do they find these people?!

  1. Alan says:

    I shudder to think about the people you’ll be competing against :/

    • George says:

      If you…

      …can read a PR bunny’s script

      … can say “ hmmm boiling water is difficult to get right”
      … ask “did you open the packet yourself?”
      … have no concept of self-esteem

      then we’ll have you on Come Dine With Me.

  2. Penny says:

    Um, broadcast date is wrong, it’s on next week starting January 31. I’ve never watched it before…

  3. niles says:

    Ah, bugger you’re right Penny – they changed it on me on short notice.

  4. Kimbo says:

    I don’t usually watch CDWM, but I’ve seen enough of them to know I don’t want to miss this one. Hurrah for you! Hope you win/won! (No, I’m not asking) :o) x

  5. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alex Foster, Jonathan Calder. Jonathan Calder said: RT @alexfoster: I just blogged: Come Dine With Me: how do they find these people?! http://bit.ly/eXJ52r #cdwm […]

  6. […] Primer – a useful introduction to the issues from Crooked Timber’s Henry Farrell Come Dine With Me: how do they find these people? – Alex Foster explains how it came to be that you’ll get to watch him cooking on […]

  7. […] can read all about Alex’s preparations for the show on his own blog here: I got the phonecall to say I’d definitely be on shortly before going on honeymoon – I […]

  8. paul wigfield says:

    hi iam paul wigfield from come dine with me from walsall. it was such a buzz to do, and so late each night. last night was 3-30 in the evening but it was a great week.

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