Royally Fun Facts from the Ex-Royal Chef

Darren McGrady dishes on the corgis’ dinners and the “chocoholic” queen, then offers advice for young chefs.

By Ethan L. Johns
May 16, 2018

Image: Angela Weiss/Getty Images for BritWeek

When it comes to questions about life at Buckingham Palace, chef Darren McGrady has likely heard them all. After a total of 15 years with the royals (11 with Queen Elizabeth II and four with Princess Diana, William and Harry), he got to know their favorite dishes intimately, and became “that familiar friendly chef in the kitchen.”

After Princess Diana’s death, McGrady moved to Dallas, Texas, where he started his own catering company.

While in town to host a royal wedding viewing party at Kellogg’s NYC on May 19th, chef McGrady sat down with Genius Kitchen to share some stories about his former employers and make us breakfast fit for a queen (QE2 eats Special K every morning).

This is what we learned.

The royal corgis had their own doggy menu:

“When I was there, the Queen has 12 corgis. So they had a dog menu. One day it was liver, the next day it was chicken, the next day it was beef, and so we’d have to make that menu every day.”

Prince Harry likes curry on his pizza:

“Prince Harry loves curry—pizza and curry—so in my latest cookbook, The Royal Chef at Home, I made a chicken tikka masala pizza.”

The Queen, not so much:

“The Queen wasn’t really into Indian food or the spices. Coronation chicken—the mild chicken curry created in 1952—that was probably as curry as she would go.”

When the Queen travels, her pots and pans travel with her:

“It was the Dark Ages! You know, with the Queen, the dogs came first, the horses came second and the chefs came 25th. So cookware, even today, is still antique copper pans that date back to the 1900’s, and they still have ‘VR’ on them—‘Victoria Regina.’

“We’d actually have to pack the equipment and take it to Windsor, then to Sandringham, then to Holyrood Palace, then to Balmoral. There wasn’t enough equipment to go around to all the houses.”

How to get a job at the palace, and why Gordon Ramsay need not apply:

“You follow your dream. I slept the night outside of Buckingham Palace to watch the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, and while I stood there looking, I thought, I want to work at the palace. So I wrote a letter to the palace. I got an interview and not long after I was working there.

“Get a technical background and understand why things happen when you’re cooking. Learn the basics, and you have to have the right personality. If you’re working in the kitchens at Buckingham Palace for the Queen, you can’t be a Gordon Ramsay or something, because Prince George and Charlotte could come running into the kitchen too and learn some choice words.”

Of all the treats he developed for the Kellogg’s NYC royal wedding party, McGrady thinks Prince Harry would prefer the Caramel Banana Cake Push Pops, made with Froot Loops:

“He loved the caramel banana cake—I used to make that for him when he was at school. And I thought, well, Harry’s really into fun things. And to push that caramel banana cake out and then put Froot Loops in and have it explode like confetti, that’s just Harry, that really is just Harry.

To meet Chef McGrady yourself, and to experience his menu of cereal-themed treats, head to Kellogg’s NYC at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 19th, for a livestream of the royal wedding ceremony.

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About Ethan L. Johns

Ethan is the Food News Writer at Genius Kitchen. An expert on the Parisian bistrot, he likes bitters and salted butters, and is no fan of dessert unless it's made with fruit. His hobbies include reading up on the history of borscht and attempting to roll perfect couscous by hand. Twits & Instagram @EthanLJohns