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Queen Elizabeth looks on during a visit to officially open a new building at Thames Hospice, Maidenhead, England in July, 2022. The queen had a number of long-established food habits, her former private chef Darren McGrady says. Photo: Pool/AP

Eat fruit in season, no coffin-shaped sandwiches: Queen Elizabeth’s food rules, and the sweet treat chefs made for her corgis

  • A former royal chef shared anecdotes about Queen Elizabeth’s eating habits. Among them: she insisted on scones for tea, but ‘never ate them’ – her dogs did
  • Corners had to be cut off tea sandwiches but they could not be left rectangular – ‘it looked too much like a coffin and it meant you wished the Queen ill’

Members of the British royal family are mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth, who died at Balmoral Castle on September 8, aged 96.

The late Queen made history as the longest-serving monarch in British history, on the throne for 70 years. Over the years, some people close to the Queen have shared anecdotes about the monarch.

For example, one former royal chef, Darren McGrady, shared little-known details about the Queen’s eating habits in his 2007 cookbook, Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from a Palace Kitchen.

McGrady spent 15 years as a chef for the Queen at Buckingham Palace and Princess Diana at Kensington Palace. He joined the Queen’s staff in 1982 before transferring to Diana’s staff in 1993. McGrady remained at Kensington Palace until Diana died in August 1997.

Queen Elizabeth stroking Candy, on of her corgi dogs, at Windsor Castle earlier this year. She used to feed scones to her pets, according to former royal chef Darren McGrady. Photo: Pool/AFP,

According to McGrady’s cookbook, scones were part of Queen Elizabeth’s daily tea service during his time at Buckingham Palace.

“They were served religiously each day, alternating between fruit scones or plain scones,” McGrady wrote. “While the Queen insisted on them as part of her tea, I suspect she didn’t actually like scones. I say that because she never, ever ate them.”

McGrady added that the Queen would feed them to her corgis.

“Instead, at the end of her daily tea, the Queen would take a scone and crumble it onto the floor for the corgis. It seems the dogs quite liked them,” he wrote.

McGrady recalled asking a fellow chef why it was required to trim corners off of tea sandwiches for Queen Elizabeth during his early days at Buckingham Palace.

Chef Darren McGrady. Photo: Getty Images via AFP

“I was told to never cut a square or a rectangle,” McGrady wrote in his cookbook. “It looked too much like a coffin and it meant you wished the Queen ill. I was mindful to never make that mistake.”

McGrady wrote that the head chef “would develop a list of menu suggestions” each day for Queen Elizabeth to approve.

“Each day he would write his suggestions down in a red leather-bound book with ‘Menu Royal’ embossed in gold on the cover,” McGrady wrote. “As soon as one book was filled, it was sent to the royal archives and a new book was sent to the kitchen as a replacement.”

Queen Elizabeth cuts a cake to celebrate the start of her Platinum Jubilee at Sandrringham House, Norfolk, eastern England on February 5, 2022. Photo: Pool/AFP

McGrady attempted to record Princess Diana’s daily menus when he moved to Kensington Palace, but she had no interest.

“She thought it was a waste of money and asked, ‘Why would anyone in years to come want to know what I ate?’” McGrady said of Diana.

As McGrady wrote in his book, the Queen gave up chocolate for Lent, so she did without “her favourite Bendicks Bittermints and Charbonnel et Walker chocolates”.

We could serve strawberries almost every day during the summer – but woe betide any chef who put them on the menu in January
Darren McGrady, former royal chef

“On Easter Sunday the chefs would go to great lengths to prepare all sorts of chocolate treats to make up for the forty-day abstinence,” McGrady wrote. “There were chocolate cakes plus milk chocolate, white chocolate, and bittersweet chocolate eggs.

McGrady added that the chocolate sweets were served at royal teatime for “several days” before being placed in the staff dining room.

In a chapter about Windsor Castle, McGrady wrote about the Queen’s love for the Royal Ascot during the summer. The Royal Ascot is a prestigious five-day horse racing event in the UK founded by Queen Anne in 1711.

Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh arrive to attend Ladies Day at the Royal Ascot race meeting in June 2012. Photo: EPA-EFE

“Ascot kicked off the summer for palace chefs,” McGrady wrote. “Now we could use strawberries, cherries, and all the wonderful summer fruits.”

He continued: “The Queen was quite particular about eating fruits in season. We could serve strawberries almost every day during the summer – but woe betide any chef who put them on the menu in January.”

Wood Farm is found on the Queen’s Sandringham Estate, a private residence, in Norfolk.

“The dining room was right next to the kitchen, and we knew when the Queen was coming through for lunch because the door was always open and the dogs would be herded into the kitchen,” McGrady wrote.

“I could feel as many as twelve in the royal dining room and six in the staff room, all the while navigating around the dogs, which were jumping for titbits,” he continued. “You couldn’t push the dogs away, for the Queen would hear them yelp in the next room and know what was going on.”