A MAN from Henley is to appear on TV’s Come Dine With Me — even though he can’t cook.
Gary Boys said he applied to appear on the Channel 4 show because he wanted to show off the town.
He will be seen on screen enlisting the help of several businesses to help him prepare his meal for three other diners as they compete over a week for a £1,000 prize.
Mr Boys, 44, of River Terrace, said he wanted to highlight Henley’s array of talent.
“The whole idea wasn’t ‘I’m going to win a cooking competition’ but to show off the creative side of Henley,” he said. “It’s not just about the regatta here, it’s about all those other people who come to the town and run their own businesses and shops and stay here for life. They have so much to give and that’s what I had in mind.”
Mr Boys, who owns recruitment firm GB Consultancy, responded to an advert on on Facebook inviting people to apply to appear on the programme.
He said: “You get those life events that just make you think ‘I’m going to jump at this’ and do it for positive reasons. You also get those moments when you think ‘oh, I wish I had done that’ so I didn’t want to regret it.”
Mr Boys went through a number of interviews with researchers and producers before he was selected and was given two weeks’ notice before filming began in late July.
He was teamed up with two women from the Oxford area and a man from Chalgrove.
Contestants each have to host a dinner party at their home with a three-course menu they prepare themselves. They score each other out of 10 and the one with the highest overall total wins.
Mr Boys was given a crash course in cooking by Jolyon Miller, who owns the Row Barge pub in West Street, Henley.
It was a huge change from his usual diet of takeaways and his mother Christine’s cooking.
“I can’t cook at all, not even beans on toast, so I wanted to come out of my comfort zone and do something completely off the wall,” he said.
“Jolyon basically showed me how to do a main dish and a dessert but I didn’t have much time to prepare.”
Mr Boys visited a number of businesses and asked if they would help.
He said: “I went to as many as I could find and said, ‘we’ve got a chance to promote Henley and show it off to the world’.
“Everyone wanted to join in and make this spectacular show that people would remember for a lifetime.” Mr Boys and his brother Darren carried out a hurried refurbishment of his home by painting the walls, building a door and installing new skirting boards.
He then organised for his guests to arrive in a slipper launch driven by an employee of Hobbs of Henley.
He shopped for his dinner food and drink at Gabriel Machin butchers, the Henley market, Waitrose and Regatta Wines.
A marquee was set up in his front garden, which interior designer Julie Warren helped to decorate while neighbours provided waiter service.
Guests were welcomed with a performance by bongo drummer Cyril Felix before they were given an opportunity to have a go themselves. Mr Boys admitted the results were “hilarious” but wouldn’t reveal how he fared and instead thanked the people who helped him.
“I learned about what teamwork you get in Henley and what a community spirit there is here,” he said.
“I saw how people like to perform brilliantly and do a good job to promote the town, with none of them asking for money or to be mentioned in the credits. There’s so much talent here and everyone did a beyond-average job.
“I also learned about myself. How amazing it is to cook for people — it’s quite a nice feeling to see people eat what you produce.” Mr Boys thanked Danny and Tom White, the Indian Garden Company, Lulu’s Marquees, Boatique, Juicy Events, Hobbs of Henley, Jo Southwell, Jolyon Miller, Girl Power electrician, Gabriel Machin, Rory Lynch, Cyril Felix, Steve Hays, Mark Lovejoy, Ashley Davies, Megan Jacobson Claire Peacock and Finlay Tubb.
The show will be broadcast in the next few weeks.