Unlike most of us, the British royal family doesn’t spend their evenings foraging around the fridge until they find an old slice of pizza. They have personal chefs who fulfill their every culinary whim—and considering the family is huge, there are many whims to take into account.
Marie Claire spoke to former royal chef Darren McGrady (who cooked for the Queen, Prince Philip, late Princess Diana, and William and Harry) for details on the family's quite intense dining habits — and we learnt so much. Including the fact that William and Harry loved McDonald's!
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1. Prince Philip gets mistaken for a gardener
"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,” says McGrady.
2. Dinner is Downton Abbey-levels of formal
"They would come in for afternoon tea by the log fire in outdoor clothes, and then they'd all change for dinner. 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,” he adds.
3. They lied to the Queen Mother about dinner time
"Dinner was at 8:30pm in Balmoral when Her Majesty the Queen Mother was in attendance. They used to tell her that dinner was at 8:15pm, and she'd be the last one down. They told everyone else 8:30pm because they knew she'd be late."
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4. Princess Diana was on a very strict diet
"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. When she was at Buckingham Palace, her bulimia was definitely a hidden thing. We didn't know about it,” mentions McGrady. “It wasn't until she confronted it, and everyone put two and two together, that she started really healthy eating. She liked dishes like stuffed bell peppers and stuffed eggplant—she loved fish."
5. Diana used to trick her guests
Her guests never knew Diana was eating a fat-free version of the food on the table. "She used to trick people: She'd say, 'Make me a mousse for President Reagan.' She couldn't have it because there was mayonnaise and sour cream. So she'd say 'Make me a fat-free version.' So I did. Often, when guests would come, she'd have the fat-free version and the guests were on the full-fat version and no one would know the difference."
6. Harry and William loved fast food
"I remember the Princess came into the kitchen one day and said, 'Cancel lunch for the boys I'm taking them out, we're going to McDonald's’. And I said, 'Oh my god your royal highness, I can do that, I can do burgers.' And she said, 'No, it's the toy they want.' Yeah, the boys loved McDonald's, and going out to pizza, and having potato skins—sort of the American foods. They were royal princes but had children's palates."
7. The Queen's favourite food 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 favourite, and it has to be dark chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the better."
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8. The Queen ate out of tupperware
"People always say, 'Oh, the Queen must eat off gold plates with gold knives and forks.' Yes, sometimes... but at Balmoral she'd eat fruit from a plastic yellow tupperware container,” states McGrady.
9. The Queen also ate fruits in a diamond-encrusted plate
"It was a marble dish with three gold horses. The dish was encrusted in diamonds, rubies, sapphires, and emeralds. Thirty-something years ago it was valued at 500,000 pounds."
10. The Queen ate Kellogg's for breakfast
"Breakfast was very simple for Her Majesty. Some Kellogg's cereal from a plastic container, which she'd serve herself. And some Darjeeling tea."
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