The narrator of TV hit Come Dine with Me tells Roz Laws why he prefers anonymity to fame.
He is the main reason why millions of viewers regularly tune in to one of the most successful shows on television.
But you’ll only ever hear Dave Lamb narrating Come Dine With Me. He vows he would never appear on the show to be a contestant – mainly because he’s a terrible cook.
The Midland graduate is adamant: “It would simply not happen, I wouldn’t go on if you paid me £1 million.
“I don’t cook at all at home because my wife Nikki is so good at it. She has a chef’s qualification and is really passionate about food.
“When we were first going out, I invited her round for a meal. She took one mouthful of my mushroom stroganoff and pushed the plate away.
“That was quite rude and a very cheffy thing to do, and the end of my cooking career!”
When Dave started narrating the show back in 2005, he had no idea it would turn into almost a full-time job.
He thought it would last one series. He has now provided amusing comments to other people’s dinner parties for more than 800 episodes.
There are daily shows every teatime on Channel 4, plus a primetime show every Friday night and the occasional celebrity special.
There are more than 30 local productions in other countries, with everyone from America to even Iran signing up. In Germany it’s called Das Perfekte Dinner.
Dave’s latest project is a DVD, released on Monday, called Come Dine With Me: The Tasty Bits.
It features the best moments of outrageous behaviour, such as the woman in Preston who went to bed after serving the starter, leaving her guests to cook the rest of the meal themselves.
The rows and cock-ups are there, plus 30 minutes of unseen footage including scenes too rude for TV.
“There’s some pretty fruity stuff,” laughs Dave, who doesn’t write his script but often ad-libs as he watches the footage.
“There’s a lot of unusable filth from me that ends up on the cutting room floor. If you’re sitting in a dark studio for five hours, it’s good to keep morale up by throwing in the odd scandalous comment.”
Dave, 42, started his performing career at Warwick University where he studied philosophy and literature.
“I was actually supposed to do law, for which I needed an A and two Bs. But I got an E. My mum still made me ring up the university to see if I’d got in! I retook my A levels and was accepted for philosophy, though I had no idea what I wanted to do.
“I only started performing because of a bet I made with a girl on my course. She said she’d sing in the union if I went up for an acting part.”
He won the role and, with five other male students, formed a comedy troupe called The Cheese Shop.
“We did a half-hour show on campus radio every week, broadcast to eight or nine students,” says Dave. He’s being rather too modest – actually they went on to have three series of a Radio 4 sketch show.
Dave often returns to the Midlands as he’s the director of Warwick-based radio company Top Dog Productions.
It made the Radio 4 sitcom The Music Teacher and is currently recording Railings and Spikes, a four-part comedy about two brothers.
Dave has appeared in plenty of TV comedy shows from his debut as the token white man in Goodness Gracious Me. His credits include Dark Ages, Rhona, The Armstrong & Miller Show and The Life and Times of Vivienne Vyle. Most recently he played a scriptwriter in Moving Wallpaper, while he’s also been a bailiff in EastEnders.
But these appearances have yet to make him a familiar face to the general public, even if, he admits, they sometimes “look at me a bit oddly”.
You would have thought he would be recognised far more as soon as he opens his mouth – yet his normal voice sounds very different from his heightened, sarcastic, narrator’s one.
“It’s very nice to be anonymous and I want to keep it that way,” he says.
But, despite Dave’s protestations that he’s not a celebrity, there are, at the last count, 106,190 members of the Facebook page proclaiming that he is a “legend”.
Recent comments include: “The only reason people watch Come Dine With Me is because of you” and “If I could have anything from Santa, it would be you narrating my life.”
Dave has a Twitter account (@Therealdavelamb) but says: “I don’t go on Facebook any more as it’s a bit overwhelming. The nice and the nasty things are equally disturbing.
“Someone had written some text over my face which wasn’t very nice. People can get very aggressive about mispronunciation. One man told me I was saying ‘dauphinoise’ wrong, so I changed it.
“One of the amusing things about Come Dine With Me is the way people can’t pronounce words on the menus, considering it’s a show about food.
“It’s also startling how unself-aware contestants can be. That’s when the fun happens, when people spend all week proclaiming how good they are and then fall to pieces in the kitchen.”
Dave lives in Brighton with Nikki, a script supervisor he met in 1998 while working on the Channel 4 sitcom Barking, and their two-year-old daughter Betty.
Has Betty heard her father’s TV voice yet, perhaps narrating the CBeebies show Big Barn Farm?
“No, although she’s probably old enough now,” he says. “She’s more of a Peppa Pig fan, though.”
So what of the future for Come Dine With Me? It’s looking healthy after the makers signed a new two-year deal to serve up more daily and primetime shows.
“I think it will go on forever,” says Dave. “I hope so. The audiences seem to be picking up, if anything. And in the current climate, it’s fantastic to be in regular work and to have such a fun job.”