It was super exciting to be invited to the finals of Great British Menu 2020, because my sister Esmeralda and I love watching cooking shows together – especially Great British Bake-Off and Great British Menu.  The theme of Great British Menu 2020 is Children’s Literature, the chefs using books like Harry Potter as inspiration for their recipes. I was invited because I have written book reviews for this magazine – Scoop – and I love reading. So it was also exciting to be invited because I hoped to meet some of Britain’s greatest children’s writers.


My mother and I originally planned to get to Great British Menu, which was being filmed at one of the university colleges in Oxford (famously, lots of writers studied at the University of Oxford) by train.  Unfortunately, Great British Menu coincided with a great British storm, which caused a tree to fall onto the tracks.  Our train went back to Paddington Station only 20 minutes into the journey.  I was in despair:  I thought we would never go, nor did my Mum, who suggested going to the cinema instead.


However, it transpired that lots of the invited writers were also on that train, and the finals of Great British Menu could not be filmed without any guests – as who would eat the food? The television production company sent taxis to pick us all up from Paddington Station and drive us all the way to Oxford.


This turned out to be amazing as we shared a taxi with several legends of the writing world: Cressida Cowell, our Children’s Laureate and author of How To Train Your Dragon – I have read them all – Charlie Higson of Young Bond, Francesca Simon of Horrid Henry who is my sister’s favourite character, we heard Francesca speak at Barnes Children’s Literature Festival last year, Muhammed Khan who has written some YA fiction which I am still too young to read, and the illustrator Nadia Shireen.  We did not stop talking  all the way to Oxford.  I heard about the island in Scotland where Cressida Cowell spent her holidays as a child, and we talked about making books into movies. I learned that the first How To Train Your Dragon film was going to have dogs being the dragons, with fake wings. That film never got made!  We also talked about racial representation – all of us feel that there aren’t enough black and brown people in children’s literature.


When we finally got to Oxford we were taken into a huge banqueting hall, with long trestle tables and lots of hot overhead lights.  I can’t tell you about the food that we ate because it has to be a surprise for the people watching the show, but I can tell you that it was delicious and really inventive.  I can also tell you that there were lots of courses, and the whole meal took SEVEN HOURS.  Filming television is a very lengthy procedure, I discovered, and not as exciting as it might seem.  Luckily I was sitting with some other children, including Audrey who is this magazine’s Agony Aunt.


It was a long day and super hot, but also amazing. The storm raged throughout and we went back to London in a mini bus with the poet Lemn Sissay, whose book Gold from the Stone I have since been reading, and love.


Great British Menu is now on television! It started on  Wednesday 18th March on BBC 2 at 8 o’clock, and runs for 9 weeks.  I’ll be watching every episode, I hope you will be too!


By Sholto Steel, aged 9