Back in September, on a windy, brisk day, Phil and I headed to Southend-on-Sea to film our television debuts, and more importantly hug and stare at Jamie Oliver. I did more of the hugging and staring, as Phil shone on camera. I haven’t been able to write about the day yet due to the fact we signed a confidentiality agreement that we’d not spill the beans on the Internet about the show, guest speaker or food.
But now that our episode has aired, I can share all the juicy details. On the way there, sat on the train with my second coffee of the day I was having heart palpitations. My adrenaline was running, I was feeling emotional and no matter what I did I couldn’t calm down. I don’t recall ever feeling such an anxious yet excited rush of emotion. When we arrived on set, it was like a hurricane was blowing through the south east of England. My hair basically resembled a birds nest by time we hit the café. Really not good for a telly debut – especially when the stars of the show kept getting hair and make up touch ups throughout – but we were left to flounder in the tornado. So with a tragic hair do we carried on, explaining the intricate delicacies of each dish, the profound textures and shock and awe around eating free range – whilst trying to appear normal. No easy feat, trust me. The editing team would have had their work cut out for them on this one.
When we first arrived Phil and I nabbed ourselves our own table in a spot we deemed to be the best. However, after sitting there for 15 minutes or so, one of the team came and swapped us so that we joined a table with another couple. They had been watching us and clearly deemed us to have more showbiz pizzazz so we got bumped to the front of the room. We settled into our new spot, with the couple from Essex, him working in banking and her in TV. I knew I had my work cut out for me to try and shine with a lady who is already in front of the camera every day. She was a natural, and I cringed at how terrible I was.
The team made us all a cup of tea and we sat sipping, getting to know each other prior to the main pair turning up. Jimmy came in first, casual and easy going asking how everyone was. But then. My main man came in, he sauntered to the back of the room talking with people and making everyone feel comfortable. As he walked to the front of the room – near the make shift kitchen – he walked past our table and TOUCHED MY SHOULDER. He literally put his hand on my shoulder and asked us how we were going. I died. And everything tingled. With a look of shock and in a hushed voice (so Jamie would not hear my crazy) I told my table, wide eyed, JAMIE TOUCHED MY SHOULDER. The Essex couple looked at me like I’d just said I’d wet myself, poor dear, but Phil grinned at me, knowing that moment had just made my whole fucking year.
The show got underway and the guest star walked in – Simon Pegg – what a legend and super nice guy! He started having a chat with Jamie & Jimmy before they kicked off the cooking. The food was impeccable – a cheesy, ham comforting take on a lasagne – made using pancakes instead of pasta. Free range crispy duck provided by the free range duck farmers who came to share their story. Korean BBQ beef made by Jimmy and a lamb tagine by Jamie and Simon – the best I’ve ever had.
With each dish being placed on the table, we would be surrounded by cameras. There were five guys with mobile cameras scouting about the small room and runners asking us our thoughts on the food. We were told not to dive straight in as the team would want to film reactions and discussions around the food. A few tables didn’t listen to this snippet of information, clearly, as by time the crew turned up to film them they had polished off their plates – more fool them – they won’t be on telly!! As previously mentioned, Phil was the star of our table. He didn’t know what to say most of the time, but they clearly loved his face because they GAVE HIM LINES. Here was me floundering with a birds nest on my head and trying be calm, coming up with great words to describe the many dishes and there was Phil – looking handsome and being fed perfectly worded lines by Jamie’s staff.
Needless to say, neither of us made the cut when it came to lines. But we sure got a lot of smiling face time on the show. At one point you do here me say “hello” when Simon Pegg puts a dish on our table, but you have to really listen for it, like only myself or my mother would do.
Phil knew I was beyond eager to get a photo with Jamie – this was going to be my one and only chance – so when filming wrapped up he nudged me. I was suddenly nervous as we were told throughout not to approach them for photos or cookbook signing. But then my adrenaline kicked in again and I was off. Storming to the front of the set to meet the man I’ve followed for so many years. Jamie was absolutely wonderful and easy going in person, just as you see him on the telly. He was more than happy to sign my new cookbook and pose for a photo with me, and then another with both Phil and I. Genuine, amazing guy. The whole experience fulfilled a huge bucket list item for me and I’ll never forget it.
Since the episode (series 5, episode 1) aired on Friday 24 November we are now live on the Channel 4 catch up website. I’m really hoping it hits YouTube, or I’m going to have to record it on my iPad to show my family and friends who aren’t in the UK.
Screenshot photos of the episode are owned by Channel 4.