Claire Lara wins Masterchef show
MasterChef: The Professionals has crowned its first female winner - a pregnant 30-year-old who said her heightened sense of smell helped her triumph on the notoriously tough cookery show.
Claire Lara, who was brought up on an oven chip-heavy diet, clinched the title in the third series of the hit BBC programme.
Despite being sick while competing against fellow finalists David Coulson, 25, and John Calton, 29, she did not realise she was pregnant and put her symptoms down to nerves.
Lara, from Birkenhead in Merseyside, said following her win: "I think being pregnant gave me an advantage. It heightened my sense of smell and taste. I felt so sick and was vomiting each day but I put it down to stress on the show as David was feeling the same. But obviously, he wasn't pregnant!"
Lara, who is expecting a boy with her French husband Marc, said it was "about time" a woman won the show, judged by Michelin-starred chef Michel Roux Jr and food writer Gregg Wallace.
She said: "It feels brilliant, but at the time I didn't know I was the first female winner. Men have definitely dominated. I feel quite proud. Hopefully other young female chefs will be inspired to go on."
She added: "It's a really tough industry and not female-friendly. You've got to be very thick-skinned."
Roux Jr, who has offered Lara a job, said: "I think she's the most complete chef that I've come across. Not just in the MasterChef context, but anywhere, in the last five years.
"We started off the competition looking for a talent and we have uncovered a diamond... She has that exceptional talent that will take her to stardom."