How does the idea of £1000 in cash sound, pretty good?. What if I told you that all you have to do, is cook a dinner party for yourself plus four guests, and if your evening is voted the best that week you get to walk away with the money?
This is the premise behind the wildly popular channel 4 TV series, ‘come dine with me.’ The 5 contestants spend a week taking it in turns to host a dinner party.
The contestants then rate each evening, by giving it a score between 1 and 10. The winner is the host with the highest score at the end of the week, and they get to take home the cold hard cash.
As a chef, you may think appearing on ‘Come Dine With Me’ sounds like the easiest way to win money that you’ve ever heard of!
Accustomed to cooking for hundreds of guests each day, 5 covers sounds like a dream. However, before you start clambering too apply there is one little catch;
The rules for appearing on channel 4 TV series Come Dine With Me states that professional chefs, or people who have trained as chefs, are disqualified from taking part in the show. However, there are other television opportunities available for professional chefs.
If you are unsure if this is a definite no, the production company even go so far as to state that the producer has the sole discretion to decide on what constitutes a professional chef or a person who has received chef training.
In simple terms, this means that it would be very difficult to slip through the net and appear on come dine with me if you where a trained chef!
However, that has not stopped some people from attempting it. As we can see from the Express and Star article below, a chef named Francesco Ceccarelli actually made it on to the show.
Chef Francesco claimed to his fellow diners that he was the manager of an Italian restaurant. He performed well on his night to host, briefly managing to take first place.
However, the chefs conscience got the better of him and he admitted to his fellow contestants that he was in fact the head chef of the Italian restaurant; not the manager.
Understandably, the others where not impressed by this revelation and they re-evaluated their scores, with one angry diner scoring Francesco the lowest score possible, a 0.
I think this serves as a good lesson that although a chef may be able to hide their professional background and get past the production checks, it is probably not a good idea!
So where does that leave current and ex-professional chefs who dream of TV stardom and the chance to win some recognition for their talents?
Fortunately, for the media ambitious chef, there are other options they can pursue which will help them progress their career.
How Do Chefs Get On The Great British Menu?
The BBC program ‘The Great British Menu’ is known for its world class chefs. Professional chefs from all over Britain compete in regional heats before progressing to the final rounds.
The chefs are not competing for cash prizes though. To these chefs the prize is much more revered, they are competing for a chance to cook one or more courses at the end of season banquet.
For professional chefs, the opportunity to take part on The Great British Menu is by invitation only. Contestants are individually selected by the producers of the show and the standard of the competition is extremely high.
There is fierce competition for places as appearing on the show has huge benefits to a chef’s career and ensures that the bookings diary of their own restaurants will be full for years to come.
A judging panel made up of professional food critics, ex-chefs and TV personalities ensure that the competing chefs crave their approval.
If you enjoy the finest cuisine; this show has it by the boat load. These are the current best chefs from the four countries that make up Britain, competing head to head showcasing their skill set and imagination.
The process the production company uses to select contestants is a little vague to say the least. To put it another way, finding any information at all is like looking to a head chef for sympathy when service is going badly, a complete waste of time!
The program is produced by a company called Optomen. They have companies based in the United Kingdom and in the United States.
I have contacted Optomen, the producers of The Great British Menu, on several occasions requesting information on how they choose their chefs but so far they have failed to respond.
If at some point if they get in touch I will add their comments in here, but if you are reading this then you know I am still waiting by the phone for them to call. Any day now…………
Safe to say they are closely guarded about the selection process. If you are a chef with high ambitions and have the experience and know how to compete at this level then it may be worth getting in touch with the production company directly.
That being said, the chefs that compete are generally well known within the catering community. It may be that time is better spent improving your craft, and growing your business, until they decided to extend an invite to you
Do not let this talk of waiting to be selected deter you from making your mark on the TV culinary world. There is still another option which encourages high level chefs to apply via an open selection process.
How Do Chefs Get Selected For Masterchef The Professionals?
There are two versions of Masterchef on British TV. One is for amateur cooks Masterchef which does not allow anyone with chef training to take part. The other Masterchef the professionals is unsurprisingly given its title, for professional chefs.
Any chef can apply to take part in Masterchef the professionals by filling out the online application form. Applications are only open at certain points in the year so it’s important to reguarly check the website for updates.
Whilst the standard is still very high, the open selection process makes taking part a lot less daunting target to aim for compared to The Great British Menu.
The program is produced by a company called Shine TV. They are a British production company with offices in London and Manchester.
As readers can see at the time of screen grab their application process for the new series had passed. However, I did look through the application whilst the process was still open, and I made some notes of the questions that they ask.
This is where it gets a little tricky.
I contacted shine tv, the producers of Masterchef the professionals, and asked if I could use the screen grabs on this article to show you guys the type of questions being asked.
I had to ask their permission as to share information about the process goes against their terms and conditions that I accepted before being allowed to view the form.
You may be able to guess their response. Therefor, I am going to air on the side of caution and unfortunately I will not be able to share the screen grabs or the specific questions!
What I will say is that the initial questionnaire that candidates need to fill out was very long and detailed. There where many questions to answer regrading career path, cuisine favourites, personal attributes, role models, and career aspirations.
There was also the requirement to upload photos of dishes you had created, and the chance to share your social media profile if you so wish.
The initial application was incredibly detailed and clearly designed to weed out those that would not make the cut early on. Those not willing to commit the time and energy to apply would fall at the first hurdle.
As it is a television program the next stages where to take part in an audition process, I’m assuming in front of cameras to make sure that you are comfortable.
My advice to any chef who wishes to go down this route would be to gather lots of evidence of great dishes whilst going about your daily work. Building a social media presence would more than likely prove beneficial as well, demonstrating that others like and admire your cuisine would be like music to a producers ears.
Whilst we have looked at the three most popular TV shows in Britain that chefs can compete on, there are still many more. If a chef is determined to make their mark and get their name out there the opportunities are quite vast.
Perhaps the most important development over the last five years is the ability to put ourselves out there. Social media and platforms such as YouTube have opened incredible opportunities to chefs to reach a wide audience.
No longer dependent on industry gate keepers, a chef can forge their own path, getting their cuisine and message out to a huge audience; simply by using the phone in their pocket.