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Everything the Queen Eats, According to Her Former Personal Chef

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Getty

Originally published in 2007, a book authored by the Queen Elizabeth II‘s former chef, Darren McGrady is now gaining momentum for bringing to light some of Her Majesty’s private dining habits. Titled Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen, the book recounts stories from McGrady’s 15-year tenure at Buckingham Palace, where he served as Queen Elizabeth II’s personal chef. In and amongst waxing poetic about his experiences, from accompanying the Queen on two royal tours, to cooking for five American presidents, McGrady provides an intimate look into the many recipes and menus that comprised domestic life at the Queen’s royal residences.

Now in a series of Q&A videos posted to his YouTube channel, McGrady is delving deeper into his experiences at Buckingham palace between the years of 1982 and 1993. Noting that the Queen, at the time, ate four small meals a day; breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, and dinner, the personal chef revealed Her Majesty’s particular preference for afternoon tea. While breakfast and lunch were relatively mundane; usually marked by miscellaneous cereals, salads, and grilled meats, afternoon tea was a slightly more decadent pursuit. Opting for scones with jam and clotted cream, in that order, afternoon tea was a mandatory occurrence. “She’d always have afternoon tea wherever she was in the world,” said McGrady. “We’d flown out to Australia and were on the Royal Yacht. It was five o’clock in the morning but for the Queen, it was five in the afternoon so my first job was making scones.”

Queen Elizabeth II with Princess Anne and her first grandchild, Peter Phillips, pose for a photograph on November 20, 1977 at Balmoral, England. (Photo by Anwar Hussein/Getty Images)

With over 20 chefs on the royal kitchen roster at the time, McGrady noted the Queen’s preference to learn of her meals ahead of schedule. The head chef would provide Her Majesty with a menu twice a week, after which she would choose meals to her liking. While never overtly expressing disdain for the food she received, the Queen would instead leave a note for the staff indicating she did not wish to receive the meal again. “She had a little book on her desk and she would just put a note in there saying ‘I don’t want this again’ or something like that,” explains McGrady.

Going on to discuss her favorite food, the former chef elaborates on the Queen’s special affinity for potted shrimp on toast. “They’re cooked and marinated in this secret spicy butter,” he says in a Q&A video. “And the Queen would have them with warm toast, and when you spread them on the warm toast, the butter melts.” While somewhat indulgent, it would seem however that the Queen’s true adoration is reserved for chocolate. “She is absolutely a chocoholic,” says McGrady.”Anything we put on the menu that had chocolate on, she would choose, especially chocolate perfection pie;” a layered chocolate pie with white and dark chocolate and chocolate shavings. Other items that hold royal warrants include Croque monsieur sandwiches and salmon coulibiac; the latter of which was frequently presented on account of the influx of salmon freshly fished by the family at their Balmoral residence.

Amongst the many things she favors, McGrady confirms there are a few she dislikes. “The Queen doesn’t like garlic,” he says. “We could never use it at Buckingham Palace.” In contrast to her husband Prince Philip who “loves curries with lots of garlic and spices,” the Queen’s dislike for strong flavors meant foregoing an ingredient regardless of who else was consuming the dish. “We could never do [two plates] ‘for your plate, you’re going to have lots of garlic’, and ‘your plate, no garlic’,” notes McGrady. “It was always down to the Queen, you have everything how she has it.”

Although firmly impartial to the notion of fast-food, the Queen warmly welcomed her Friday fish and chips order. The most popular meal of the week, it is reported that all 300 staff, in addition to the residents of Buckingham palace would tuck into a fish and chips meal for lunch, “But, forget your tartar sauce and your ketchup,” says McGrady. “We loved it with salad cream.” Other special traditions at the Royal household included three turkeys and a traditional pudding at Christmas, and “special eggs” for Mother’s Day.

With relatively normal culinary pursuits in tow, McGrady notes that the most shocking phenomenon he witnessed at Buckingham Palace was in fact the gastronomic requirements of the Queen’s pets. “One of the things that really, really shocked me when I got a job as the Queen’s chef was that I wasn’t straight away preparing banquets for kings, queens, and presidents. I was actually chopping beef, liver, and chicken for the Queen’s [12] corgis.”

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