Queen Elizabeth’s personal chef who prepared dinner for Princess Diana on the night she died has revealed the palace dining secrets he learned during his 15-year career cooking for the royal family.
In an interview with Sydney’s KIIS 106.5 FM, Darren McGrady, 58, told hosts Kyle Sandilands and Jackie ‘O’ Henderson how he served the monarch, 94, four meals a day and accompanied her on two royal visits to Australia during his 11-year tenure from 1982 to 1993.
The British cook also served the ‘People’s Princess’ for four years, from the time of her separation from Prince Charles in 1992 until her untimely death aged 36 following a car crash in Paris on August 31, 1997.
Mr McGrady had dinner ready for Diana the night the car she was being driven in smashed into a pillar in a tunnel under the Alma bridge shortly after midnight.
‘I was there, I had the food for dinner waiting for her to return. It was a horrible, horrible time,’ he said.
While he was never told if the Queen had enjoyed a meal, Mr McGrady said she expressed her distaste by leaving a message in her diary to ensure it was never served again.
‘She had a little notebook on her desk and she would just put a note in there saying ‘I don’t want this again’ or something like that,’ he said.
Mr McGrady recalled that one of his first tasks in Her Majesty’s service was peeling carrots for her beloved horses at her estate in Balmoral in the Scottish Highlands.
He also regularly prepared food for her dozen corgis, typically bowls of rabbit and liver mixed with cabbage and rice.
A highlight of his career was joining the Queen on two official visits Down Under, travelling with the royal entourage on the HMS Britannica.
On one of those trips which spanned Anzac Day, commemorating Australian and New Zealand soldiers slain in war, Mr McGrady was towed in a dinghy from the Britannica to an Australian Navy vessel so he could learn how to make Anzac biscuits.
‘You don’t even think but back then, it’s not something you could Google because there was no internet!’ Jackie said.
Mr McGrady recalled that the monarch had enjoyed the sweet, egg-less biscuits and liked to dunk them in her tea.
The Queen hated strong flavours like garlic and onion, Mr McGrady revealed, but the her sweet tooth meant any dish with chocolate immediately received the royal seal of approval.
Mr McGrady said she never requested midnight snacks but was known to indulge in ‘chocolates from the sideboard’ or a piece of fruit if she was hungry late in the evening.
And while many imagine the royals feasting on caviar and foie gras, Mr McGrady said the ‘disciplined’ Queen restricts herself to small portions and enjoys everything in moderation.
One of her ‘guilty pleasures’ during his tenure was ‘croque monsieur’, which he called a ‘fancy version’ of a toasted cheese sandwich made with melted Gruyère, ham and whipped eggs.
She also loves fish and chips coated with panko breadcrumbs instead of traditional batter, Mr McGrady said.
Diana was a clean eater, Mr McGrady revealed, with a taste for stuffed vegetables, fish and chicken. Rich meats like beef and steak were off the menu for the famously health-conscious icon.
The chef said he once cradled an infant Prince Harry while the Princess ate cereal in the kitchen of Windsor Castle.
‘I’m beginning to wonder if I dropped him on his head or something right now with what’s going on,’ he said, referencing mounting controversy surrounding Harry and Meghan Markle’s self-imposed exile from the royal family.
Mr McGrady left royal service after the Princess’ tragic death, and now works as a chef in Dallas, Texas.
He also films videos for a YouTube channel, Rattling Pans with Darren McGrady, where he shares royal recipes with his 62,000 subscribers.