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Exclusive: Royal chef Darren McGrady recalls Princess Diana's relaxed approach to dinner time with William and Harry – which often got her in trouble with Nanny

princess diana7© Photo: Getty Images
Ainhoa Barcelona
Content Managing Editor
Updated: May 31, 2016
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Former royal chef Darren McGrady had the privilege of cooking for Princess Diana and her sons William and Harry for four years when they were growing up. Darren, who also spent 11 years working for the Queen, has opened up about Diana's relaxed approach to food and dinner time – which often led to a "battle" with the children's nanny.

Speaking exclusively to HELLO! Online, Darren said: "She wasn't strict at all. She let them be boys, young boys! There was always a battle between her and Nanny. Nanny would say, 'No, they're eating their dinner, they're having cabbage.

"And the Princess would say, 'No, if they're with me and they want loaded potato skins and fried chicken then they can have that. And if they don't eat it and they still want pudding, they can have that too!' She was much more relaxed than Nanny."

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"If the boys were home, the Princess wanted to spoil them," said chef Darren McGrady

Darren, author of Eating Royally, added to HELLO! Online: "They could have chocolate, there weren't special treats because if the boys were home, the Princess wanted to spoil them.

"They liked comfort food dishes. They loved banana flan, anything with banana really, banana ice cream. They loved things like mixed grills, burgers, pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken and cream chicken sauce... They were royal children but they still had children's palates."

While William and Harry were happy to feast on fried chicken, Darren recalled how their mum Diana was more strict with her diet.

princess diana2© Photo: Getty Images

"She absolutely adored the two of them," said Darren

"She was into healthy eating so we never had beef on the menu, unless the boys were home, and it was always chicken, fish or stuffed vegetables," said Darren.

"When I started working for her she said, 'I want you to take care of the fats and I'll take care of the carbs at the gym'. So dishes like tomato mousse which she really liked, she'd say, 'Make me a fat-free version'."

When William and Harry were home, the trio would sit down for dinner at 6:30pm. "The food was actually put on the sideboard and they just go and help themselves, as opposed to in the palace where they're served each course," said Darren.

But when the Princess was home alone, she'd "eat at the kitchen table, at the dining room or she'd have a tray in front of the TV," he added.

princess diana1© Photo: Getty Images

The trio would sit down for dinner at 6:30pm every night 

Darren also recalled how the Princess would often host lunches over dinners as she didn't like the late nights.

"She didn't do dinners for two reasons," said the chef. "She liked an early night, she used to get up at six, seven in the morning. She didn't like going across to the palace for the big dinner parties because they went on too late.

"And also she said, 'I can't invite men back for dinner because the media would find out and then I'm in real trouble, all sorts of things happen. So whenever I do an event or a charity do or have a friend round, I have to have them for lunch.'"

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Darren cooked for the Queen for 11 years and for Diana for four years

While Darren admits that he never thought of himself as "a friend" but rather "the chef", he did develop a natural bond with the late People's Princess.

"I was always there, so sometimes she'd come in and vent about things she wasn't happy with. Other times I'd see her just burst into tears and it was like, 'What do I say? What do I do?' Other times she told a dirty, risqué joke and you think, 'I can't believe Princess Diana just said that!'"

"I was just honoured to be in the right place at the right time and watch William and Harry grow up," he added.

princess diana7© Photo: Getty Images

"I'd love to sit down with Harry and talk to him and let him know what his mum was like," said Darren

"I was watching Harry at the Invictus Games and read the interviews where he said he doesn't remember a great deal about his mum. I'd love to sit down with him some time and talk to him and let him know what she was really like.

"She absolutely adored the two of them. She would be so thrilled right now with both of them, especially with Harry, with his charity work. He's his mother's son; you can see that in the way he acts naturally with young kids. He's just incredible... We just need to find him a bride now!"

Darren, who has his own website, has partnered with The Savoy in London to create an afternoon tea in celebration of the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations. Darren will join guests at The Savoy's Royal Afternoon Tea on 11 June.

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