The infinitely watchable television series Come Dine With Me has been on the air in the UK for almost ten years now, but we’ve only had a few years here in Australia to show off our culinary skills. If you love the show but hate the idea of airing your dirty laundry on public television, why not group together with some friends and host your own version of the popular show? Get started by thinking about these few elements which add up to a few great nights.
Sit down with your friends and have a think about organisation. While the show varies between four and five contestants, they also have a team of people to help out with the schedule, so certainly don’t have groups of any more than that – even if you arrange it so that each contestant is a couple. The show takes place in just one week, but chances are this isn’t going to be possibly for many of the invitees, so perhaps pick one night a week for a month and ensure everyone is able to make them all.
If money is a concern, consider setting a budget for the meals, or operating a Bring Your Own Booze policy to avoid sending costs through the roof. It may also be a good idea to choose a format for each of the dinners, the way they do starter, mains and desserts on the show, and decide together whether deviations (such as cocktails instead of a starter) are acceptable for everyone.
Paper invites are a slightly antiquated tradition now, but they are lovely regardless. On TV, each contestant sends out a menu for the night with some hints for theme or dress code, but telling everyone what you’re serving ahead of time isn’t necessary, especially if you’re already aware of any allergies or dietary requirements. Inform them of a theme if you have one, and perhaps if you have some active entertainment lined up you could warn them not to wear high heels or uncomfortable clothes.
While it isn’t always vital to choose a theme, it does help your guests to get into the swing of the evening, especially when carefully paired with your menu. You could, for example, serve Mexican food and buy a piñata for entertainment, or play Rock Band and make food with band name puns. This can go as far as you want it to – but remember, it’s worth putting in the effort if you want to win!
Contestants on Come Dine With Me are given pre-determined menus to choose from, rather than making whatever they would like; you and your friends have the luxury of being able to pick anything. Don’t attempt anything difficult or fiddly, and probably stay away from food you haven’t cooked before. Plan your courses in advance to ensure that you have the necessary equipment and ingredients, and win extra points by staying out as a good host instead of disappearing into the kitchen for long periods of time.
This won’t be as easy as on the television, as there’s no camera crew to follow you around and capture your drunken thoughts. Instead, maybe put together a feedback form with s coring for each course and an extra space for anonymous comments. Put them somewhere secure or have someone impartial look after them, and on the last night have a look at who won and dole out any prizes – either put money in together for it, or if you’re doing this on the cheap the pride of winning may be enough!
Without very much hassle, you too can have a Come Dine With Me night with friends, strangers or other couples. You might not have the witty commentary of the show, but all the other elements will be there, and it’s a chance for you to show off your hosting and cooking skills with a fun theme!