I was on First Dates – here's what happens if you're stood up, truth about the cab ride and why everyone splits the bill

FOR years, First Dates has managed to charm the nation – despite a remarkably simple format devoid of nudity, bizarre challenges or embarrassing exes.

Since first airing on Channel 4 in 2013, the show has produced at least seven long-lasting couples and one baby.

It’s a winning formula thanks to smooth-talking Fred Sirieix and his army of charming waiters.

But for those looking for love, it’s not as easy as it appears, according to former contestants Stefan-Pierre Tomlin and Joseph Kent.

Here, they reveal surprising secrets behind First Dates, including why it “feels like Big Brother” and what happens if your date gets cold feet. 


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‘Holding pen & 10-second taxi ride’

At home, it appears a smooth ride for the hopeful dates to the First Dates restaurant but Stefan-Pierre reveals the truth.

He told The Sun: “My stepdad dropped me off at St Paul's and I spent four or five hours sitting in a holding room.

“When it’s your time, you get into a taxi that drives you around the corner and then you get out. It takes about 10 seconds."

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'Like being on a catwalk'

Stefan-Pierre claimed it felt like 'being on the catwalk' when walking to the restaurantCredit: Channel 4

As an international model Stefan-Pierre, who was the most popular person on Tinder in 2017, knows a thing or two about catwalks.

But he claims it was "madness" when he exited the cab and walked to the restaurant.

"There are cameras on cranes in every direction to capture you from all angles," Stefan-Pierre said.

“It’s like walking down the red carpet or a catwalk. It was quite overwhelming. I didn’t realise what was going on.”

What happens if you're stood up?

Unfortunately for Joseph Kent, who was due to appear in series three, his dates “got cold feet” twice.

The company director recalled: “It was all very exciting but then an hour before I was about to leave work to go on the date I got a call.

"They said, unfortunately, the person got cold feet and didn’t want to be on the show.

“They found someone else but they also dropped out, which was really disappointing.”

In the end, Joseph made it onto the show in 2015 as one of the background daters and revealed the secrets about how it works.

As much as it's about romance, it’s also about logistics too and sometimes it doesn’t work out

He said: “Everyone who was going to be one of the background dates met at a youth hostel around the corner from the restaurant.

"The producers asked if there was anyone we wanted to go on a date with and if there wasn't they pulled names from a hat.

“Then you take it in turns to eat in the restaurant so that it looks busy and like there’s a constant flow of people coming in and out. 

“You’re taken straight to the table as you’re there to fill the space and sit around the edge of the restaurant rather than the main section, where the featured dates are.”

When Joseph, who is still looking for love, went to the restaurant he was told people pulling out "was common".

He explained: “They told me 100,000 people apply every season and as much as it's about romance, it’s also about logistics too and sometimes it doesn’t work out.”

Hidden cameras everywhere

Many amusing moments occur on the show because daters forget they are on camera – including flirting with other diners and making snide remarks.

But there were 42 hidden cameras located around the First Dates restaurant in London, Paternoster Chop House, which makes contestants feel like they are "on Big Brother".

Stefan-Pierre added: “They don’t have a cameraman walking around inside, so it’s very easy to forget you’re going to be on TV.

“They have cameras embedded everywhere and it’s very realistic and organic, which makes it feel like a real date.

“I was on the pilot series so I didn’t know about the cameras in the toilets that recorded your conversations and phone calls to friends.” 

Lengthy filming schedules

Viewers are on the edge of their seats as the post-date interviews begin and the singletons reveal their true feelings about how the date went. 

But Stefan-Pierre claims they are “exhausting” and lasted for more than an hour after an already lengthy filming session on the date.

Sometimes there’s another obstacle too…

“I was off my noodles," Stefan-Pierre said. "The cocktails hit me and I’d mixed it with wine as well, so I have no idea what I told them."

After a few too many drinks, there’s the risk of stumbling over your words or saying the wrong thing and Stefan-Pierre claims the TV cameras aren’t forgiving. 

He added: “You have to film your sections individually and then together. If they don’t capture it right you have to do it again. 

“There’s a lot of pressure and you have to be careful of what you say.” 

Who’s paying?

Going halves at the end of a date is seen as the modern thing to do but on First Dates there’s another reason why it may happen. 

Both of our contestants revealed they were given £25 towards the bill, which would typically cover the meal without drinks. 

At the Paternoster Chop House a cheeseburger costs £17, triple cook chips are £5 and desserts vary, with one scoop of ice cream costing £2.50 and a top-end sweet is £9.

The most expensive individual item on the menu is a 300g fillet steak, which has been dry-aged for 21 days, that costs £39.

How to get on the show?

Both our contestants revealed they had to undergo multiple rounds on interviews before being selected for the show. 

They included one phone call and at least two face-to-face meetings, where they were quizzed about hobbies, their dating history and what they are looking for in a person.

Joseph said: “I never found any of the questions uncomfortable. They asked about my sex life but I was quite happy to speak openly.”

Not always a happily ever after 

While Stefan-Pierre and Siofra hit it off on TV, their romance wasn’t meant to be and after a few more dates they broke up. 

Despite it not going to plan he was left with happy memories and a surprising number of strangers quizzed him about their relationship.

Stefan-Pierre said: “The show was a real success, relaxed and felt like being on a date.

“It aired around a week after we filmed it and the next night, I remember being on a train with Siofra and everyone came up to us. It was incredible.”

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Similarly, Joseph, who’s also still looking for love, enjoyed his time on the show and didn’t have any hard feelings.

He said: “Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience and it certainly wasn’t dull at all.”

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