THEY are considered by many to be the ultimate children’s literature books and now it seems JK Rowling's Harry Potter novels have been the inspiration which helped a Scots chef secure a place in the finals of an elite cooking contest.

Drawing on a scene from one of her favourite books Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Edinburgh-based chef Roberta Hall-McCarron made her way into the last week of the Great British Menu after winning the Scottish heat of the BBC show.

This year chefs are competing to earn a place to present a dish at a banquet to celebrate children’s literature and for Mrs Hall-McCarron, chef and owner of The Little Chartroom, the menu brief could not have been better.

“There have been some amazing banquet themes over the years of this competition, but when I learned this year’s was children’s literature, I think we have the best yet,” said Mrs Hall-McCarron.

“As a young adult I remember reading the Harry Potter novels and the Goblet of Fire stood out for me. When it came to creating the menu there was a scene in the with Hagrid and Harry before the dragons arrived. The starter I created, Dragon of the Wood, was a venison tartare with celeriac remoulade and a smoked mayonnaise. I used wood sorrel and mushrooms as well - things you might associate with a walk in the woods.

“In the heats the judges asked for more theatre so for the final the starter was presented to them after a fire-eating display. It was tougher than I thought it would be linking the food to a story.”

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Each night a team of eight chefs compete to have their starter, fish course, meat and dessert chosen for the banquet. And hosting this year’s series for the first time is Scots comedian Susan Calman who provided moments of light relief when needed and picked up the chefs when tensions were mounting high.

“It was great to have Susan around in the kitchen. I just think she is very funny, but she was also very supportive and would keep us going when we needed it.”

Facing the judging panel of Irish restaurateur Oliver Peyton, restaurateur Andi Oliver and food critic Matthew Fort, had the finalists on tenterhooks to find out if their dishes had made it through.

While reading was one interest, Mrs Hall-McCarron’s main passion growing up was food. Although from Edinburgh, it was holidays on the west coast on her father’s boat that sparked her interest in cooking. Catching ingredients such as langoustines and scallops proved to be an inspiration.

She worked in a restaurant as a teenager before going to catering school, but was keen to get back into the kitchen and worked at Number 16 in Glasgow and Slaley Hall in Northumbria before heading to the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh. After working in Dubai for 18 months, Mrs Hall-McCarron returned home where she took up a post at Tom Kitchin’s restaurant in Leith. She worked at another Kitchin venture Castle Terrace, in the capital, but with along with husband Shaun McCarron they decided to open up their own place.

They opened the Little Chartroom, which has fourteen covers, in 2018 to critical acclaim. Within two years though they found themselves having to temporarily close their doors due to coronavirus lockdown.

“Just before lockdown we had started a takeaway service, but then it became clear we would have to close. My husband and I have only recently started a meal delivery service. The dishes come with cooking instructions for you to finish at home as we can't serve it hot. We are also expanding some of the things we offer on our website that we are known for so that people can enjoy them at home. We have a bacon jam we serve with a brunch and a chocolate and hazelnut spread we serve.”

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While the restaurant normally only has limited covers, Mrs Hall-McCarron has found herself cooking for 70 on a Saturday as she has been helping city charity Soul Food. It provides meals to people who may be homeless or vulnerable or find themselves in a difficult situation due to lockdown.

“We had launched a Crowdfunder to be able to support the charity with meals and had a target of £750, but we have just closed that and we raised £7000," added Mrs Hall-McCarron. "A lot of that was due to the generosity of our regulars which has just been amazing.”

*The Great British Menu continues on BBC 2 on Wednesday at 8pm.