The Queen may have visited 116 of the world’s 196 countries but according to her former royal chef Darren McGrady, the monarch is not an adventurous eater and isn’t keen on trying new things.
Her Majesty prefers traditional British and French cuisine and has a soft spot for… chocolate. In an exclusive interview with HELLO! Online, Darren revealed the Queen’s likes and dislikes and admitted that the 90-year-old royal is not really a foodie at heart.
She is absolutely a chocoholic, said Darren. Anything we put on the menu that had chocolate on, she would choose, especially chocolate perfection pie.
For a main course she loved game, things like Gaelic steak, fillet steak with a mushroom whisky sauce, especially if we did it with venison.
For a first course she loved the Gleneagles pâté, which is smoked salmon, trout and mackerel. She loved using ingredients off the estate and so if we had salmon from Balmoral from the River Dee, she’d have that, it was one of her favourites.
Darren, who worked at Buckingham Palace for 11 years followed by Kensington Palace for four, added: “We used a repertoire of dishes, mainly British and French food. We cooked a lot of traditional French food like halibut on a bed of spinach with a Morney sauce.”
But the Queen never was a foodie. She always ate to live rather than live to eat. Prince Philip was the foodie. He’d want to try any new dishes all the time and got excited about new ingredients whereas the Queen, if we had a new recipe, she’d have to look at the whole recipe before saying, ‘Yes ok let’s try it’. But for the most part she stuck to the same dishes week in week out.
A red leather-bound book of menus, written in French, would be sent up to the Queen each week, containing a wide variety of recipes.
We prepared the menus three days ahead so we could get the food in,” said Darren. “The chefs would pick the menus and she would put a line through the ones she didn’t want. Sometimes she’d put a line through it all and put something different, like if she was having dinner with Prince Andrew, his favourite was crème brulee with Sandringham oranges.
It’s like any mum with a son or grandson coming home. If Prince William was coming for tea it would be a chocolate biscuit cake. He loved those.
Darren, who is author of Eating Royally, concluded: Cooking at Buckingham Palace was amazing. It was everything I expected it to be. They have the most amazing produce, the best quality food, the best ingredients to work with. Just little things like picking up the phone and calling Harrods and asking for a rack of lamb with a two-inch eye of meat and six bones – you got everything you wanted.
Darren decided to apply for a job at the palace after camping out on the Mall on the eve of Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding. It was then that he thought how “amazing” it would be to work in the royal kitchens, and a few weeks later he went in for an interview and secured a job.
Before that Darren trained in his hometown of Nottingham and also worked at The Savoy in London. Today he lives in Texas with his wife and three children.