Karen Phillips invites the nation to dinner in a new ITV show

Is Karen Phillips Britain’s top hostess? That is exactly what new ITV show House Guest attempts to find out.

The series, which started on Monday May 19, is searching for the nation’s best dinner-party hosts. Five people from across the UK spend five nights competing for the accolade — and a £1,000 prize. Each night, one of the hosts entertains the other four by cooking dinner. One person is then picked to stay over for the night.

Contestants are scored on the quality of their cooking, overnight accommodation and warmth of their welcome. “It was quite an adventure and a fun-packed week,” Mrs Phillips tells People.

A North-London property consultant, Mrs Phillips runs her own Hampstead-based company Karen Phillips & Co, but loves to cook and entertain whenever she can. She saw the advertisement for the show in her local bagel bakery. “I was at the counter paying for a chollah or something. There was a sign saying; ‘Do you love entertaining and cooking? If so, call ITV on this number.’ And I thought, that’s me. I love entertaining and do it so much that I thought this would be second nature.” But the mother-of-two admits that it was tough. Did she mind staying over at a stranger’s home? “I have never stayed in a stranger’s house before, but my hostesses made me feel very welcome.”

The contestants are allowed to cook with the help of a chosen sous-chef. In Mrs Phillips’s case, she says she twisted the arm of her 26-year-old daughter Alyson, who works as a pastry chef at one of Gordon Ramsay’s new ventures. They made a roast tomato soup with pesto puree, followed by pan-fried seabass served in lemon butter with salse verde and broccolini. Dessert was a medley of cheesecake, chocolate mousse and strawberries dipped in chocolate.

“And there was lots of wine and champagne,” notes American-born Mrs Phillips, who is in her 50s.

House Guest is on every day from Monday May 26 to Friday May 30 at 3pm on ITV1

    Last updated: 8:45am, May 28 2008