Did you ever wonder what meal time looks like inside the royal palace on any given day? Is it all Downton Abbey, or does the royal family have food quirks just like everyone else? Are there picky eaters among the royal ranks? Is there a food that Queen Elizabeth won’t eat? According to royal chef Darren McGrady, the answer is yes to all of the above questions. McGrady is now sharing all sorts of things you never knew about the eating habits of the royal family.
Over the years the formality with which the royal family dines has loosened up a bit, but when in London, they are still expected to dress for meals. While Queen Elizabeth has been on the throne, she has shaken up and modernized several things, including removing the gender question from royal succession with the Succession to the Crown Act.
“In determining the succession to the Crown, the gender of a person born after 28 October 2011 does not give that person, or that person’s descendants, precedence over any other person (whenever born).”
Although Queen Elizabeth still has standards when it comes to meal time, according to chef Darren McGrady, there is one royal person that is able to dodge at least some of the rules, and that’s Prince Philip. McGrady says that Prince Philip takes dressing down to such a level that he gets mistaken for the help.
“He came into the kitchen and I thought he was the gardener. He was this old man in tatty old clothes, he had a jumper on with the arms hanging out at the elbows—all tattered and worn. I looked and thought, ‘Oh, it’s the gardener.’ It was only after I looked closely that I saw it was Prince Philip.”
Chef McGrady says that the royal family, including Queen Elizabeth, relaxes everything when they are at Balmoral up in Scotland, and that’s when he sees Queen Elizabeth around the kitchen. The royal chef explains that at Balmoral, Prince Philip likes to cook outdoors and grill locally caught fish.
“[Prince] 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.'”
But even at Balmoral, royal chef McGrady says the family dresses for Downton Abbey-style dinners with a long, formally set table. He explains that dress would still be casual for lunch and for tea, but the royal dinner would be fancy.
“They’d come down in dressy ball gowns, and sit at the table—like a Downton Abbey dinner. All the fine china was brought out. At the end of the meal, a bagpipe player would walk around the table.”
Chef McGrady says that the family member who challenged him the most was Princess Diana. He explains that when Prince William and Prince Harry were young, she would cancel meals and sneak them out to McDonald’s. He said he tried to explain that he could make the princes burgers, but she explained that they wanted the Happy Meal, complete with the toy.
But Princess Diana challenged the royal chef for a different reason. Diana had put herself on a very strict diet after she overcame bulimia, and so the royal chef had to rework many of the recipes in the royal cookbook.
“One day she said to me, ‘Darren I want you to take care of all the fats, and I’ll take care of the carbs at the gym.’ We changed everything, I threw out my Buckingham Palace recipe book and got into healthy eating.”
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Royal chef Darren McGrady says that Queen Elizabeth has some serious likes and dislikes when it comes to food, and yes, she has a favorite food which is dark chocolate.
“The Queen loves to eat any food from the estate—so game birds, pheasants, grouse, partridge—she loves those to be on the menu. But of course, she loves chocolate. That was her favorite, and it has to be dark chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the better.”
But with likes there comes dislikes for the head royal, and Queen Elizabeth really doesn’t like garlic.
“The queen would never have garlic on the menu. She hated the smell of it, she hated the taste of it.”
And the royal chef wants to make it clear that the image of Queen Elizabeth as fussy is inaccurate. For example, Queen Elizabeth starts her day the way many American children do, minus the tea.
“Breakfast was very simple for Her Majesty. Some Kellogg’s cereal from a plastic container, which she’d serve herself. And some Darjeeling tea.”
Are you surprised by the secrets the royal chef has spilled?
[Featured Image by Kristy Wigglesworth/Getty Images]