Former Buckingham Palace chef Darren McGrady reveals things happening inside the Royal Kitchen.
For a chef, inside the Royal kitchen was the most nerve-racking culinary performance of his career.
McGrady started in 1982 when he was 20, the most junior of 20 cooks in the Buckingham Palace kitchens. Although he had already risen to chef de partie saucier (head sauce chef) at the Savoy. Well, it was his first job.
‘One of my first jobs at Windsor Castle was peeling carrots for the horses,’ he remembers. ‘Putting them in little bags for the groom to put in the Queen’s riding-jacket pocket. ‘The Queen must have thought carrots grew in that pocket’.
As he rose to become senior pastry chef, however, he was often responsible for meals at Windsor for a whole weekend. The chef’s suggestions are presented to the Queen in a menu book. Two suggestions for each course. She strikes a line through the one she doesn’t want. Occasionally making her own suggestion to include a visitor’s favourite dishes.
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Prince William’s choice: If Prince William is coming to tea, he likes chocolate biscuit cake,’ says Darren. ‘That’s the only cake that goes back upstairs again and again until it’s all gone.
Prince Philip’s choice: If Prince Philip decides he wants to cook a fillet of beef, we’d marinate it ready for him to pop on the grill.
The Queen’s choice: Usually, the Queen takes a tiny sliver, then most of the cakes are used for staff teas the next day. ‘If I wanted to try out a new dish, I had to send the actual recipe for the Queen to decide if she’d like it.
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The Queen is famously frugal. She doesn’t like the food to be wasted. Once there was a chef who joined the Palace from the famous Michelin two-star restaurant Le Gavroche. He used a whole lemon to create a garnish for Her Majesty’s smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. ‘The Queen actually sent the lemon back, saying, “This is a waste”, Darren recalls.
No garlic or spicy food for Queen Elizabeth: The Queen avoids garlic and very spicy foods. Dishes such as Coronation chicken that you’d imagine she would be thoroughly bored of after 60 years. It has become a firm family favourite, he explains. Wherever the Queen is in the world, she stops for tea.
Giving away the leftovers.
Leftovers, rarely make it back to the Buckingham Palace kitchen, which is some distance from the private apartments. ‘Leftovers get eaten by the footmen,’ Darren reveals.
The royal family favourites: The Royal Family loves a traditional Sunday roast. Queen Elizabeth likes the end piece of the joint. As soon as the family has finished eating, the chefs gather around the chopping board for roast beef and leftover roast potatoes’. ‘But the Royal Family do like to barbecue and that’s the closest they come to cooking,’ he says. ‘We would prepare most of the food in the kitchen.
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At the end of the meal: Queen Elizabeth will rinse the plates, that’s her contribution. When I worked for Princess Diana, she’d occasionally cook a little something when she had friends over. That was sometimes pasta with a sauce. ‘That is something her majesty would never do’, says McGrady.