The joys of Come Dine With Me


Contestants tuck into their starters in Come Dine With Me South Africa. © BBC

There’s something just so appealing about Come Dine With Me. I find myself watching the local version and bingeing on the British episodes when I’m too lazy to change the channel, and once I’ve seen one episode I’m committed and have to see them all.

It seems like a scary show to enter to be a contestant on; I really don’t want the funny voiceover guy, Dave Lamb, joking about me and my life but the R10 000 prize money is a good incentive. If you don’t watch the show it’s easy to step in and catch an episode as they don’t connect (for the British one you have to watch a series of five episodes which tells the story of one dinner, in South Africa it’s one episode featuring one dinner). Four strangers (five in the British one) are given a budget and each gets to cook a meal of a starter, main and dessert at home for the other three (or four). They get to moan or rave about the night to the camera while relaxing in the host’s bedroom. Then they secretly rate each other out of 10 on their way home afterwards and at the end of the episode the one with the highest total is the top dinner host and gets the cash. It’s a simple concept that works and makes for entertaining viewing as often the contestants tolerate one another during the first dinner party, start complaining at the second gathering and by the third or fourth hosting they start sniping at one another.

After you’ve watched a few episodes you start noticing the contestants fall into categories and certain things often happen, and spotting these things is all part of the fun.

The whiny one

There’s almost always a whinger, sometimes a rude whinger. The one who doesn’t like anything or anyone, and you spend most of the episode wondering why they would have entered a show like this. Oh wait, they have a one-in-four chance of winning R10 000. One of the earlier episodes of this season of the local one had a woman who didn’t like most of the dishes the other contestants were making and would spit out the food into her napkin. Who does something like that? As one of the contestants said, if you don’t like it finish the mouthful and then say no thank you. Yet others were expected to eat her food without complaint. Eventually the others started raving about the food to make up for her rudeness.

The eccentric one

The crazy, offbeat, not quite normal one is divided into two groups: the ones who declare themselves crazy, offbeat or not quite normal and the ones who aren’t aware they’re somewhat crazy, offbeat or not quite normal. I like the second group; I like their innocence and often they’re rather sweet people (the horse-mad guy from the local series was fascinating). The first group usually come across as trying too hard to make an impression in front of the cameras and then become insufferable.

The know-it-all

Often the know-it-all will be disparaging about the menu, mean about the host’s décor, style, ways of preparing the meals or be ready with a snarky remark about anything said. Usually they’ll comment to the cameras about how easy something was to make or it was cooked incorrectly. They’ll also score the others quite low and at the end of the episode not understand how they didn’t win or comment on how clear it was they’d win.

The drunk one

This doesn’t seem to pop up as much in the local series but seems to be a regular in the British one. But this one can be either very entertaining or just sad. Usually this one ends up in the hot tub that always seems to be on hand to spend the rest of the night in. Sometimes it’s the host who gets sloshed while preparing the food to the amusement of the voiceover guy.

The one with the pets and the one who hates pets

One of the things that bugs me and seems others watching the show too is people who have cats that wander over the counter while they’re cooking or, and it’s so hard to unsee this, nibble from the food. Eew! I then find myself cringing while I watch the people eat the cat-nibbled food. And on the other side are the people who don’t like pets and look worried when they see there’s a dog until eventually the dog is sent outdoors. I haven’t seen it much in this season of the SA version but it still crops up in the British one.

  • Come Dine with Me SA series 3 is on BBC Entertainment on Mondays at 8 pm.

Watch a snippet here.

  • Come Dine With Me (the British version) is on BBC Entertainment and BBC Lifestyle daily.

-Natalie Cavernelis

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