Downstairs

05.01.13

No Garlic and Scones for the Corgis: Former Palace Chef Lifts Lid On Queen's Dining Habits

Darren McGrady says working in the Palace kitchens is exactly like Downton Abbey

The Queen’s eating habits have always been a rather fascinating subject, and this morning, lovers of this particular branch of esoteric royal trivia are in for a treat with an interview in The Telegraph with former royal chef Darren McGrady, who worked for the Royal family for 15 years – for Her Majesty until 1993, and for Diana, Princess of Wales, before her death in 1997.

Mr McGrady, 50, who was trained up in the royal household working as a carrot-peeler for the royal horses (I know) discloses that you “never put garlic in the Queen’s menu, for example, or strong onions or paprika, because she hates them.”

From The Telegraph:

For breakfast, McGrady recalls, Her Majesty enjoys Cornflakes or Special K, with fruit from her greenhouses or macadamia nuts she keeps in a Tupperware box. For lunch, served at 1pm, she likes white fish or grilled chicken with vegetables (“no potatoes if she is eating alone”). Dinner, at 8pm, normally consists of venison or salmon and salad.

Another great detail is that the Queen takes afternoon tea every day, “consisting of scones (“sometimes crumbled up and fed straight to the corgis”.

Mr McGrady, who now works for a philanthropist in Texas, has written a book about his time in the Royal kitchens, and this is not his first media appearance. He has previously said: "If Prince Andrew is coming for lunch, his favourite is crème brûlée with Sandringham oranges [oranges simmered in sugar syrup]. 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.

"But the Royal Family do like to barbecue and that’s the closest they come to cooking. We’d prepare most of the food in the kitchen. If Prince Philip decides he wants to cook fillet of beef, we’d marinate it ready for him to pop on the grill. At the end of the meal, the Queen 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, maybe pasta with a sauce.
But that’s something the Queen would never do."

The palace is currently advertising for a new sous-chef, and Mr McGrady has the following advice for whoever gets the job: “Watch a lot of Downton Abbey. Working in the kitchens at the Palace is exactly like that.”