A Christmas celebration fit for a queen! Darren McGrady, one of Queen Elizabeth II’s former chefs, has fond memories of preparing a holiday feast for the royal family.
The 57-year-old culinary pro likened Christmas at Sandringham (the queen’s Norfolk palace) to “a military operation,” and said “months of planning” were required to make sure the festivities went off without a hitch, per a recent interview with Yahoo Style UK.
“I remember the fruit and vegetable supplier: he would have six or 10 cases of pears and we would look them and chose the 12 we wanted,” McGrady explained to the outlet. “I thought, ‘this is what it’s all about, using the best ingredients.’”
According to McGrady, the British army played a crucial role in the royal family’s holiday celebrations, as members were responsible for loading the equipment and food onto army trucks bound for Sandringham. As he put it, “It literally was a military operation.”
Come Christmas Day, McGrady, who worked for the royal family for 15 years, said there was always “so much food” on hand at the royal lunch, which would occur after church. The offerings included more than two dozen turkeys at nearly 30 pounds a pop, roast potatoes, boar’s head, foie gras and Christmas puddings.
The littlest royals, McGrady noted, are typically fed a separate lunch in the royal nursery. While Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and 19-month-old Prince Louis, can expect “smaller” portions and dishes that aren’t over seasoned, the former member of the royal staff said the kiddos “pretty much” have the same menu as the older members of the royal family.
As McGrady pointed out, in addition to preparing food for those in the royal family, he and members of the culinary team also had to make sure every person on the Sandringham staff had a Christmas meal. In fact, the crew even had to prepare some tasty eats for the queen’s four-legged friends and create something called “the royal corgi’s menu.”
“We had to feed the corgis too,” McGrady recalled.
Two members of the royal family who will be noticeably absent from Christmas celebrations this year are Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. The pair are planning on a “small Christmas with just immediate family,” instead.
A source told Us Weekly exclusively last month that the new parents are looking to spend Archie’s first holiday with 38-year-old Meghan’s mother, Doria Ragland. “As it’s Archie’s first Christmas, they want it to be super special,” the insider explained. “It’ll be just Doria and the three of them. The drama surrounding the couple has caused a huge amount of stress. They’re making their family their No. 1 priority right now.”
Though Buckingham Palace’s official statement regarding Harry, 35, and Meghan’s holiday plans noted that the duo have “the support of Her Majesty the Queen,” McGrady implied that skipping Christmas at Sandringham is frowned upon.
In fact, while working for the late Princess Diana after her divorce from Prince Charles, McGrady remembered how the Princess of Wales sent her sons to Sandringham every winter, despite a court ruling stating that the princes would alternate which parent they celebrated Christmas with each year. Diana did this, McGrady said, because she felt the boys should be with the queen over the holidays.
McGrady also said that the royal, who died in a car accident in 1997 when she was 36, insisted that members of her staff spend Christmas with their own families. “We’d leave food in the refrigerator,” he said. “And there was the princess, on her own, [on] Christmas Day.”
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