First Dates restaurant staff's real jobs off-screen – from pilates instructor to dancer
YOU may be watching first dates to see singletons find love, but more often than not, we're distracted by the bartenders and waiting team.
Full of awkward reactions and hilarious quips about the dates happening before them, the staff provide plentiful entertainment throughout the programme.
Headed up by maitre d' Fred Siriex, the team have become famous in their own right as their every move is followed by the 42 cameras covering the restaurant.
Staff have not only learnt to get comfortable with being on film, but have sometimes found themselves as stars of the show as viewers howl at their sometimes awkward interactions.
But holding the card machine between couple's arguing over the bill or dispelling the tension over a date going wrong is not their only job.
As Fred and the team return for a brand new series of First Dates Hotel, we look at what they get up to when the cameras stop rolling.
Fred is the maître d'hotel of the First Dates restaurant, and the first face that singletons see as they arrive for their evening.
The Frenchman was the general manager of Galvin at Windows, a fancy restaurant at London's Hilton hotel, after training overseas to be a front of house a French Michelin-starred restaurant.
Fred, who has two children – Andrea and Lucien, with his ex-partner, was recruited by First Dates producer Molly Sayers.
She said he put a lot of effort into tying him down for the show, explaining to The Mirror: "He gave me the runaround and I had to work quite hard to get him interested in the premise."
Since working on First Dates, Fred has appeared on Million Pound Menu and Remarkable Place To Eat on BBC Two.
He's also travelled the world with pals Gordon Ramsay and Gino D'Acampo in hilarious ITV series Gordon, Gino and Fred: Road Trip.
Fred has also spent his spare time releasing a book called First Dates: The Art of Love, and accumulating over £1million in the bank with his service training business.
Last year, Fred got engaged to his partner – affectionately known as 'Fruitcake' – that he has been with for two years.
Merlin greets singletons as they head to the bar to wait for their dates – as the king of cocktails is always ready to whip up a drink.
He's been a mixologist for more than two decades – and effortlessly makes cocktails while chatting the nitty gritty of dating with his guests.
Merlin owns his own bar and restauran The Priory Tavern in north-west London, which houses a very impressive collection of wines.
He won Regional Cellar Keeper of the Year in 2015 for the establishment, which he runs with his partner Lucile, the mother of his child.
A fan of a tipple, Merlin has also worked as a global brand ambassador for Bombay Sapphire Gin.
Laura recently left First Dates after qualifying to become a paramedic – but she became a firm favourite within the service team for many years.
The waitress had been there to help singletons find love from the start after getting the gig from a friend who worked in TV.
Previously part of the Royal Navy with HMS Raleigh in Cornwall, Laura moved to London to work at the Paternoster Chop House.
During that time, Laura, who is loved up with a mystery boyfriend, was training to be a paramedic and qualified after three years in 2019.
She juggled her role on First Dates while working on the NHS frontline, and has worked for the NHS throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite previously sharing her time between the two jobs, Laura did not taker part in the latest series of First Dates after the show moved to a restaurant in Manchester.
Laura took to Instagram to explain "new faces" would replace her on the show as she focused on her role as a paramedic.
"To be honest, I don't actually know how I would have fit filming in this year with working during the pandemic," she wrote.
Vowing that she will return to the show, Laura added: "This doesn't mean it's over and I'm still very much part of the First Dates family and hopefully I'll be back again real soon."
Bubbly waitress Cici plenty of hidden talents that aren't displayed on First Dates, from acting to singing and dancing.
She was first working as an actress when she was asked to join the Channel 4 show, having appeared in short films Beautiful Girls and Sleep, as well as starring alongside Daniella Westbrook in Essex Vendetta.
After training at the New York Film Academy, Cici also starred in three off-Broadway musicals at The Players Club in NYC.
Despite working to help others found love, Cici has been single for a long time and said her TV role makes people think she's an expert in dating.
She told The Mirror: "Being on the show puts more pressure on me. I’m no dating guru. I feel I have to be perfect."
As well as acting, Cici is also a qualified Hot Pilates instructor – and she champions the exercise as helped her keep her toned body.
In case she didn't already have enough on her plate, last month she teamed up with Towie star Pete Wicks to launch a show on FUBAR Radio about relationships.
Waiter Austin has been well-known for his cheeky manner since joining the show – and is a big hit with viewers.
The professional actor has been an extra on a number of shows, but is also a model and hip-hop dancer in his spare time.
He has worked as a bartender at London dance club The Coronet as well as being a waiter at Jamie's Italian and The Breakfast Club.
In between filming First Dates, Austin spends most of his time with his girlfriend Katie Moore, a makeup artist, who is currently pregnant with their first baby.
Sam is always on hand with funny quips to keep the guests laughing, even on the most awkward of dates.
The waiter joined in series three and quickly built up a flirty friendship with co-star Cici, as the pair often were seen getting close while working.
Romantic Sam revealed he had a crush on the waitress during the 2016 Christmas special, taking inspiration from Love Actually to tell her the sweet news.
Recreating a famous scene from the classic festive movie, Sam held up placards declaring "to me, you are perfect".
Unfortunately, the friendship didn't turn into romance – and instead Sam was seen in more recent series being chatted up by single diners.
Sam joined singleton Sasha outside for a drink when she got stood up – and the pair went on to see each other twice before parting ways.
He explained: "We went on two dates but there was no spark. He is a nice guy but the chemistry wasn't there."
In 2016, Sam was left surprised when one singleton returned to the restaurant to see more of him after her date went wrong.
Revealing they spent a whole weekend together, Sam told The Sun: "I met some of her friends, she met a few of mine, it was like a summer romance.
"It was pleasure to be around someone who was as pretty and lovely as someone as Millie."
The new series of First Dates Hotel starts tonight on Channel 4 at 9pm
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