Steph and Dom Parker regularly appear on hit Channel 4 TV show, Gogglebox. They also run ‘The Salutation’, a bed and breakfast in Sandwich, Kent.
Running a successful B&B means you host people all the time. What are your top tips?
Steph: Having enough alcohol on site is very important. I think being nice is really important too.
Dom: Yes just be nice.
Steph: [laughs] It always really helps. I think its also important to get round to everybody and make sure they all feel included. The furniture layout in the drawing room (sofas facing each other) forces guests to interact with each other. Within five minutes everybody feels like a house guest as opposed to a hotel guest and that sets the tone for the rest of the evening.
Have you ever had any disasters where it has just gone horribly wrong?
Dom: We did have one disaster in an old house, all of a sudden in one of the bedrooms the roof fell in.
Steph: Oh I forgot about that, yes that’s quite major!
Dom: It was a bit of a disaster but fortunately the guests were very understanding. Then a couple of years ago, just as some American’s checked out and shut the door, the ceiling in the hall fell off.
Dom: It was 100 years old but it just came crashing down. If it had happened 30 seconds earlier it would have landed on them.
Steph: [laughs] Yes and we would probably be in prison now.
So, you have bad luck when it comes to ceilings then. Do you usually host Christmas for your friends and family?
Steph: Yes we do, Christmas is always a massive deal in our house. It’s only when you grow up and become an adult yourself – which clearly hasn’t happened yet, but I’m told – you realise just how much work goes in to creating Christmas. When you’re a young adult, you rock up from your work, put your feet up, have a gin and think ‘Oh Christmas, isn’t it
marvellous’. The minute you have to do it yourself, it becomes a very
different ball game. I think the key is to plan and get it all done early so that you are not charging around like last minute Charlie, like I do, going bananas.
Would you feel guilty then if you decided to go away?
Steph: We went away one year to Austria and as different and lovely as it was, it was still quite a drama because we had to take all the presents over there, pop them under the tree, unwrap them and then take them all back again. I haven’t quite got my head around going away yet. But I think the concept of going to a sandy beach and having a pina colada instead of roast turkey is really very appealing.
Is running a B&B something you have always wanted to do?
Dom: No not really but many years ago when Steph and I were newly married we did look at trying to buy a hotel, purely and simply because neither of us wanted to cook and we’d have ourselves looked after!
Who would be your dream celebrity guest?
Steph: Oliver Reed.
Dom: Yes I think Oliver Reed would be up there because he partied hard.
Steph: He was known for his his drinking and his general bad behaviour which we are great at enjoying as well.
How do you deal with difficult guests?
Steph: I usually let Dom deal with them.
Dom: In fairness, I don’t think we’ve had any difficult guests.
Steph: Yes ‘The Salutation’ is our home, it’s different if it’s a branded hotel, they have rules and regulations but these are our rules which we make up as we go along. Nobody wants to have anybody who’s unhappy on site, so if all else fails give them a bottle of champagne, that usually does the trick.
And what is your tipple of choice on Christmas day?
Steph: Normally I quite like a little glass of ginger wine around 4 or 5 o’clock as a nice little warmer. I love mulled wine and can drink quite a lot of it, one is never enough, three is never enough, four I’m on the floor, that sort of thing. So I’m a bit careful not to have too many of those.
Dom: I would probably kick off with a bloody mary first thing or maybe a little glass of champagne with Mrs P, then probably a very fine claret, before moving on to ginger wine.
If you two were asked to host a ‘Come Dine With Me’ style dinner with 4 fellow Goggleboxers who would you choose and why?
Steph: Oh gosh, it’s so hard to choose. I would love to sit and have dinner with the Siddiqui family – I find them incredibly dry and love their sense of humour. I think Stephen is incredibly funny, he always makes me burst out laughing and Sandy and Sandra of course. We’d have lively debates if Leon came over for supper.
Dom: Yes I think we would.
Steph: And poor old June would probably end up having to do all the cooking because I’d be too busy arguing with Leon.
Have you ever had to watch something on the show that you really didn’t want to?
Steph: Yes, an hour and a half of Crufts.
How do you get through it?
Steph: We have more gin and tonics!
Which programmes do you look forward to?
Steph: We love watching the X Factor and Downton Abbey – we are really old die-hard fans of Downton Abbey.
And what will you be watching on Christmas day?
Steph: We’ll be watching the Queen that’s for sure.
Dom: Yes without a shadow of a doubt and I’m hoping for a Miracle on…
Steph: 34th street! I’ll probably be watching Miranda, with our daughter because she is a big fan. But the trouble is when you’re actually running Christmas you don’t have time to sit and watch the telly, unless you are super prepared which clearly I am not. Oh, I’m now stressed about it.
Dom: You’re a kitchen goddess
Steph: No I’m not! Actually that’s who I’d have for dinner, I’d have Nigella over for super so she could bloody cook it.
What do each of you hope to find under the Christmas tree this year?
Steph: I’ve got my beady eye on the most beautiful locket, are you listening Dom? It’s L. O. Q. U. E. T .com
Dom: Pardon did you say something?
Steph: I know you can hear me, nice try.
Steph: So it’s this special little locket that you can fill with little things that you like, such as the initials of your children or a little diamond or a little heart and they jingle about inside. It’s absolutely beautiful.
Dom: Along with a locket of my hair perhaps?
Steph: Yes, dear…
And what would you like Dom?
Dom: I would like a Bentley Continental.
Steph: Don’t be ridiculous! Although they do those little mini versions, I’ll get you one of those and shove it in your stocking.
Dom: Hmm I really don’t know.
Steph: Every year he says absolutely nothing. One year I managed to find this bonkers present online that was a plastic ball called ‘a ball of absolutely nothing’ and I gave it to him.
Dom: It was purely packaging. It was an empty plastic ball.
Steph: So there you go, don’t do that again or you’ll get another ball.
Dom: Another ball of nothing, that would mean two balls of nothing.
Steph: Which is about standard isn’t it really?
Dom: Yes [laughs]
Do you think you will ever retire from the B&B?
Steph: Yes, because its actually quite hard work and I don’t think my liver could cope with it for very much longer!
Dom: Yes, they are not the hardest of hours but they are long hours and you’re always at work whether you’re there or not .
Steph: It’s not the most conventional of bed and breakfasts, it’s just full of people all the time. I think most B&B’s have a lull during the middle of the day but we don’t seem to get that. It’s a hotel but without the food.
What’s the long term plan after you retire?
Steph: Well I’ve always dreamed of having a house in the South of France. I spent a lot of my childhood there, so I have an affinity with it but I suspect Dom would just want to spend the entire time in a castle in Scotland.
Dom: Yes I think I would.
Steph: See. There you go, we’re going to have a great retirement – apart from each other.