Former chef to the royals, Darren McGrady, has revealed just what goes on in the palace kitchen.
The chef worked in the Buckingham Palace kitchen for 11 years, and went on to serve the Princess of Wales in Kensington Palace, until her death in 1997.
He spoke to Marie Claire about his experience working for the royal family – spilling some unexpected secrets about how they eat.
The Queen’s meals were arranged by a menu book, sent to her at least three days in advance, so she could make her selections. The exception to the rule was breakfast, which happened in a much more commonplace manner.
Her preference to start the day was a simple bowl of cereal and a cup of tea – which she’d serve herself. And while she did sometimes eat from some impressive plates, she was not averse to using a plastic Tupperware container, should occasion call for it.
“Breakfast was very simple for Her Majesty,” Mr McGrady explained. “Some Kellogg’s cereal from a plastic container, which she’d serve herself. And some Darjeeling tea.”
“People always say, ‘Oh, the Queen must eat off gold plates with gold knives and forks.’ Yes, sometimes…but at Balmoral she’d eat fruit from a plastic yellow Tupperware container.”
But there were times for being truly regal, and dining off “a marble dish with three gold horses. The dish was encrusted in diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds.”
He claimed that the Queen is a fan of chocolate – “The darker the chocolate, the better” – and that she never ate garlic: “The Queen would never have garlic on the menu. She hated the smell of it, she hated the taste of it.”
As for Princess Diana, Mr McGrady took pains to make sure her meals were healthy – even if her guests didn’t always realise just how healthy.
“She used to trick people. Often, when guests would come, she’d have the fat-free version and the guests were on the full-fat version and no one would know the difference.”
But this didn’t apply to the two princes, then children, who loved fast food as much as any child, opting to forgo the chef’s custom made burgers in favour of a McDonald’s meal – toy included:
“The boys loved McDonald’s, and going out to pizza, and having potato skins—sort of the American foods. They were royal princes but had children’s palates.”
The family trips to Scotland were usually much more relaxed than their time in London – even to the extent that Prince Philip would occasionally cook outside on the grill, in the grounds of Balmoral, and the meals would often include food caught or gathered by the family themselves.
“At Buckingham Palace, the Queen was too busy and the kitchens too far from her apartment— so we never saw her,” Mr McGrady explained. “At Balmoral, we’d see her all the time. They were much more relaxed and had more free time.
“Philip would cook out on the grill. He’d come down to the kitchens and discuss what food we’d have: ‘Do we have any salmon that any of the family have caught? The Queen’s been picking strawberries with Princess Margaret, let’s have those for dinner.'”