9 shocking royal palace kitchen secrets revealed by former chefs

What happens behind closed doors in a royal household...

Nichola Murphy

Eating like a royal at Buckingham Palace conjures up images of fine dining, sparkling silverware and a list as long as your arm when it comes to choosing your meal. But it turns out that Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles and more members of the royal family are not always traditional when it comes to their food habits.

MORE: Why the Queen's royal dinner tradition will continue at Balmoral Castle

Over the years, former members of the royal household have shared snippets of what happens inside the palace kitchens. Want to know some juicy royal food secrets? We've rounded up some of our favourites…

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WATCH: 5 foods royals don't eat

The Queen's fruit habits

Like many royals, the Queen loves fresh fruit, but she has very unusual ways of eating it. Unlike the lavish food presented at banquets, the Queen is much less particular when it comes to how her fruit it served. That's right, the monarch uses humble Tupperware, too! 

Former royal chef Darren McGrady – who worked at Buckingham Palace for 11 years followed by Kensington Palace for four – once told Marie Claire: "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."

It has also been reported that Her Majesty eats bananas with a knife and fork in order to avoid looking "like a monkey" at the dinner table. Sliced bananas served in Tupperware with a side of cutlery, please!

Princes William and Harry's mischievous streak


Prince William and Prince Harry attempted to trick the royal chefs into giving them pizza

Although they always appeared so angelic during royal appearances, the young Princes William and Harry had mischievous streaks just like every other child. 

On his website, Darren divulged that the siblings tended to eat traditional, English food such as cottage pie and peas, fish cakes, a classic jam roly-poly and sticky toffee pudding. However, the chef recalled a funny time when they had a craving for pizza one night and decided to take matters into their own hands by tampering with the kitchen instructions. 

William and Harry swapped their nanny's note for their own note asking for pizza for dinner – except Darren recognised their writing and gave them roast chicken in fear of the nanny's response. Nice try!

Menu code

Ever wonder how royal chefs know exactly what food to cook for the Queen? It turns out there is a special code the 94-year-old uses to communicate her preferences and plans to those working in the palace kitchen. Darren revealed Her Majesty had a red leather-bound book of menus, written in French, which were prepared by the chefs three days in advance.  

READ: The Queen's daily diet: what the monarch eats for breakfast, lunch and dinner

"The chefs would pick the menus and she would put a line through the ones she didn't want. Sometimes she'd put a line through it all and put something different, like if she was having dinner with Prince Andrew, his favourite was crème brulee with Sandringham oranges." He continued: "If she’s out for dinner she’ll put a line through the page, and if she has a guest coming she’ll put two or three so we know she is entertaining."

Prince Philip wouldn't travel without one kitchen accessory


Prince Philip likes to have his own kitchen accessories when he travels

The Duke of Edinburgh is a talented chef, but it appears that he is rather attached to one particular kitchen accessory. In the book Dinner at Buckingham Palace, former royal footman Charles Oliver wrote of Prince Philip’s culinary flair: "Breakfast and supper snacks are his specialities. Wherever he goes, he insists on his electric glass-lidded frying pan being packed so that he can do the cooking. For breakfast, bacon, eggs and sausages are his usual raw materials, though he often cooks kidneys and omelettes."

Royals cook for themselves (and staff, sometimes)

As proven by Prince Philip! Charles added: "The Prince is also adept at producing quick, light supper snacks, which he and the Queen often enjoy after they have dismissed the servants for the night. Dishes include scrambled eggs and smoked haddock, mushrooms sautéed in butter with bacon, Scotch woodcock (scrambled eggs with anchovies on toast) with mushrooms, and omelette with bacon."

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The Duke even once took over from the palace chefs and created a meal for them instead. Darren recounted a time when the royal entered the kitchen at Sandringham where Darren was about to start preparing a lamb dish for dinner when he decided to take matters into his own hands. “He actually cooked on the grill that night - he cooked for me! There was I, his chef, I mean, what was I supposed to do, go out and do royal engagements while he was doing my job in the kitchen?” the chef joked.

Prince Charles carries breakfast with him


Prince Charles has his own breakfast box!

Sometimes it's hard to find the right breakfast foods when visiting a new place, right? The Prince of Wales has a great way of ensuring he always has the meals he wants – by carrying items with him when he travels!

In Channel 5 documentary Secrets of the Royal Kitchen, it was revealed that Prince Charles dines on plums, homemade bread and fresh fruit juices for breakfast. "Whenever the Prince of Wales came to stay with the Queen, he would always arrive with a hamper of his own produce," Darren explained. "The instruction was to put two plums and a little juice into the bowl and send it into him for breakfast," but he went on to reveal the royal would only ever eat one of them, despite always requesting two.

Speaking of Charles' Balmoral food choices, chef Graham Newbould also said: "Wherever the Prince goes in the world, the breakfast box goes with him. He has six different types of honey, some special mueslis, his dried fruit and anything that's a bit special that he is a bit fussy about."

Relaxed dining at Balmoral


Prince Philip inspects the barbeque on a royal engagement

The Queen and Prince Philip are currently enjoying their annual summer break at their Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle. But their dining traditions may be slightly different from the ones at Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace, since the couple enjoy hosting barbeques. Balmoral's housekeeper Sheena Stuart revealed on TV's Countryfile: "The Duke, he cooks, the Queen sets up the table. There are no staff that come out to serve." 

MORE: Kate Middleton's daily diet revealed

Darren also said: "Prince Philip was an amazing chef. He loved to cook on the grill, he loved to cook at Balmoral. He’d teach me things and he was so knowledgeable." Although they can't host gatherings for friends and family in the same way following the coronavirus pandemic, we imagine they'll still make use of the sunny weather!

Safety comes first at royal banquets

Royals being poisoned may seem like something out of a murder mystery, but it is a genuine concern at big banquets. To ensure the safety of the Queen, there is a clever system in place that means it is very difficult to target Her Majesty specifically. 


There is a clever method used to ensure the Queen's safety at royal banquets

According to Secrets of the Royal Kitchen, there is no particular dish created for the Queen during these events, and one plate is chosen at random to be served to the royal. "After everything is plated up, a page chooses at random one of the plates to be served to Her Majesty. So if anyone did want to poison the monarch they’d have to poison the whole lot," royal commentator Emily Andrews said.

Certain foods are banned

Although pasta remains one of the Duchess of Sussex's favourite foods and Prince William loves sushi, they are some of the few foods the Queen rarely serves. Pasta, potatoes and rice are all off the menu, as well as shellfish, garlic, onions and rare meat.

RELATED: The Queen's favourite healthy lunch revealed – and it's perfect for BBQ season

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