xCome Dine With Me, probably the most quoted, most iconic amateur cooking TV show to ever grace these shores, will soon subject restaurant professionals to its capricious scoring and bitchy narration. Channel 4 has confirmed that new series Come Dine With Me: The Professionals will see “local, independent restaurants” duke it out, all overseen by voice of reason and sarcasm Dave Lamb.
The premise is to name the best independent restaurant in a given area, but according to Channel 4, that area could stretch to include entire countries. With only three restaurants per episode, it’s hard to see how that will play out. But as in Couples Come Dine With Me (and what looks like a close sibling, the weird hotel show Four in a Bed) each restaurant will select a chef and front-of-house staff member to represent it. Dinners will take place during regular service, with scoring out of 20, as opposed to the traditional Come Dine With Me /10 delivered in the back of a taxi.
The name follows on from Masterchef’s professional iteration, which also puts chefs into restaurants to be judged — but most often in the universally derided “professional kitchen round,” in which the audience and judges learn precisely little-to-nothing about a chef’s skills, because they are in a new kitchen for very little time. In this show, however, the chefs will be under a different kind of fire, which Masterchef leaves out entirely: the interpersonal interactions between contestants, and the disembodied verbal roasting that Lamb brings to the dining table. Never has the world been blessed with Monica Galetti, Marcus Wareing, or best of all, Gregg Wallace absolutely ripping a contestant as they struggle on camera, nor do its contestants make snide comments about their contemporaries’ knife skills.
Indeed, the real magic of Come Dine With Me is that it is instantly identifiable as British television, without ever entering into the twee fantasias of every Great British X Off out there. It is a show built on archetypes: of contestants; of starters, of mains and of desserts; of entertainments and of confrontations. At least some of this magic will likely be lost in restaurants: these are businesses more minded to uphold reputations than individuals (if the entire body of Come Dine With Me is anything to go by) and with health and safety codes to fulfil. Whisks will not be shoved in mouths whole.
But, perhaps, when all is said and done in a small town somewhere in England, and the chefs sit down to reveal who wins, someone’s resolve will snap. They will stand over their adversaries, and utter the immortal words: “Dear Lord, what a sad little life...”
Like Come Dine With Me contestants, its viewers may as well dare to dream.