Fork out for fois gras or ply them with booze? Here are 4Food's tips on how to be the Come Dine With Me host with the most
Bring on the booze
A dry house does not go down well on Come Dine With Me as teetotal Khaliva Ashrafi discovered when she attempted a sober soirée. Keeping your guests well oiled might inspire big numbers in the cab ride home, but when it comes to your own night, stay off the sauce. There's something to be said for Dutch courage but Bolton host Sarah Rothwell went so Dutch, rival host Kate ended up cooking the dessert.
DIY or lie
Every one of your rivals has probably taken a week off work and plans to spend a day creating in the kitchen, so woe betide if they find out you've cut corners and bought in your pastry cases. If you think life's too short to shorten short crust, take a tip from Come Dine With Me South London's winning host Matthew Baker and keep your lip buttoned. Bluffer Baker spent all week flashing his gourmet credentials before secretly serving his guests packet pasta.
End on a high
Dessert is your crowning glory, and everyone goes 'oooh' when the sweet stuff comes out, with the exception of Jo Mills from Come Dine With Me West Yorkshire who claimed she'd rather have pizza than pudding. The winning menus tell us bananas score high - barbecued, fried and nestled inside banoffee pie, these fruity numbers have brought home the bacon. Whatever you end on, make sure it comes with ice cream; nearly every winner has served up a scoop.
Don't serve soup
A lovely broth ticks all the right boxes in the healthy, hearty and flavoursome columns, but within the pressure realms of Come Dine With Me, soup is just too simple. No matter if they wolf it down (and they usually do), when the point cards come out, soup is seen as an easy option and you'll lose out to more spectacular starters, usually involving scallops. An exception is Come Dine With Me Swale Estuary's Dan Bowman who served carrot and kiwi soup - it takes a bold host to meddle in the fruit bowl.
Make them feel special
The best way of bagging big points is to make your guests feel like the centre of your world. Flatter and fawn enough and they will soon forget that you're all rivals for the pot o' gold. Pay attention to fussy eaters (keep your fingers crossed you don't host first); even if you grimace as you remove an offensive ingredient from a carefully balanced recipe, remember catering to picky people is a great way to scare up an extra point or two. To really seal the deal, offer movie star glamour, like Come Dine With Me Manchester's Jane Bates who rolled out a red carpet and hired in paparazzi to make her guests feel like Brangelina.
Don't be a fusspot
You may have a palate more sensitive than Heston's nostrils but fickle foodies never fare well on the Come Dine With Me scoreboard. OK, so you prefer organic poultry and aren't a fan of potted meat; reflect that in your menu but don't go whinging for the rest of the week. The fussier you are for your competitors, the tougher they'll be for you to please, as picky eater Sherrie Hewson discovered at her peril. Be the bigger person and swallow those sweetbreads whole.
According to correct dinner party etiquette wine is not welcome when it comes to a gift for the host and flowers can often cause more trouble than they're worth. Turning up empty handed will go down like a cup of cold sick, which itself is a wholly inappropriate way to thank your host. Try to give something that shows you appreciate the inner depths of your diners. Loofahs, slippers and a girl's guide to the menopause didn't do well at Come Dine With Me dinners.
Don't flash the cash
The cooks are given a bundle of cash to cater with but it's up to them whether they splash out on extras or scrimp and save with a frugal repast. You'd think guests would be bowled over by a banquet of flash fare but Milton Keynes' Bev Darlow failed to impress with a showy spread of champers and Kobe beef. Nobody likes a show off so even if you can shoot your own partridge and have it plucked by the live-in help, a plate of humble pie is the quickest way to win points.
Get your timing right
Given the many rows and bust ups that develop at a Come Dine With Me dinner you'd be forgiven for wanting to hide in the kitchen. But absent hosting is a common grumble. Guests want their host by their side so avoid cooking live unless you're dining in the kitchen. And make sure your courses flow without a pause. Lesley Joseph left her guests waiting hours for some badly cooked lamb and, while they were generous with their drinking, they were less forthcoming with their points.
Don't make them sing for their supper
Few pre-dinner party treats beat Mickey Rooney, two dwarves and the girls from the local Chinese singing jingle bells to the assembled guests, but not all of us have David Gest's capacity to entertain. Party games and dancing displays normally notch up points but guests are less giving when they're forced to join in. Don't make them pole dance, don't make them polka and definitely don't make them listen to your kids sing.