For 15 years, Darren McGrady served meals to Queen Elizabeth II and the late Princess Diana. The former chef also spent the last four years of Diana’s life cooking for her two sons, Princes William and Harry.
“She was incredible,” McGrady told ABC News of Diana. “She was always interested in what was going on behind those doors in the kitchen, what was my wife up to. When my daughter was born, she sent flowers to the hospital. She held her. [She] always remembered birthdays.”
The world was witness to the many times Princess Diana, who died in 1997 in Paris, helped those most in need, but McGrady said it wasn’t just for show. He recalled a time when Princess Diana asked him to go to the Harrods department store to buy 50 blankets for people in need.
“She said, ‘I’ve just been driving through Kings Cross and I’ve seen people pulling cardboard boxes out of the trash cans and they just want to stay warm,'” McGrady said. “She went off driving around Kings Cross on her own, putting them next to the trash cans still with the Harrods label on them.”
McGrady said that after spending 11 years working for Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana requested him personally when she and Prince Charles separated. He was her personal chef, cooking for her and Prince William and Harry at Kensington Palace right up to the day of her 1997 car accident.
“When William and Harry were home they were in the nursery upstairs and we’d always knew they were they because they’d be thundering up and down along the corridor or racing through the kitchen in their Army uniforms playing soldiers,” McGrady said. “Cooking for them was fun.”
McGrady recalled the royals as being like any normal family, with no stiff or formal pretenses about them. The young princes sometimes even ate while watching TV.
“So she’s on the healthy eating and William and Harry are on sort of the comfort foods,” McGrady said of the family’s different palates, adding that the young princes’ favorite meals included spaghetti and meatballs, cottage pie, banana flans, burgers, pizza and the occasional sticky toffee pudding.
McGrady told ABC News that he wanted to open up about Princess Diana after watching Prince Harry, 31, say recently that he struggled to remember all he’s heard about his mom, the people’s princess.
“That’s the sort of thing he should know, the sort of things she did,” McGrady said “He’s struggling to remember but it’s all coming back in his personality.”
“William is like his father … but Harry is more like the princess,” he added. “”They were so alike. His mum would have been so so proud.”
Some of McGrady’s favorite memories are with William and Harry as young children. McGrady recalled William, 33, the second-in-line to the British throne, sitting with him as he was peeled vegetables and saying, ‘Darren, when I grow up I’m gonna be a police motorcyclist.'”
“And I stopped and looked and said, ‘William I think they’ve got other plans for you,” McGrady recalled.
Harry once gave McGrady a royal cooking lesson.
“They came back from Disney World and Harry said, ‘Can you do us bacon for breakfast, Darren?'” McGrady remembered. “I said, ‘Sure, no problem.’ I made the bacon. He said, ‘Can you put the bacon in the microwave on some paper towel and put it on for one minute?’ This is little Harry telling me how to cook, and he said, ‘When we were at Disney World, they do bacon so crispy it snaps!'”
Princess Diana though left the cooking to McGrady. The former chef remembered a time Diana and a friend tried to make dinner themselves.
“The spaghetti boiled over and it put the pilot light out. They cleared away. She could smell gas,” he said. “Monday morning she came into the kitchen. She said, ‘Darren, you won’t believe I nearly set the whole palace on fire, but you know the best part? I had 12 hunky firemen all to myself.'”
“The princess always wanted a little girl,” McGrady said. “She would have been there every day just hugging and holding Charlotte. She would be spoiling them crazy. She was a natural with children. They could have had desserts and candy and anything they wanted . She would have been the best grandmother I think anyone could have.”
McGrady also said he thinks Diana would have approved of how William and Kate are shielding their children from the paparazzi as much as possible.
“William has learned from his time. William’s been there,” McGrady said. “I think she’d be thrilled now at the way he’s managing things there. He’s doing a fantastic job. William and Kate are fantastic.”
On Labor Day Sunday in 1997, like many others, I was shocked upon awakening to hear that Princess Diana had been killed in an automobile crash in Paris. Though I wasn’t yet a Diana fanatic, I was stunned and saddened. Because I work in the health care field, I researched what had happened that night in the Alma tunnel and I was disturbed and skeptical about the medical treatment Princess Diana received. I decided to write a book on my findings but in order to make it a compelling read I would write a fictional retelling and change all the names. Thus, “Death of the Queen of Hearts” was born.