Royal Chef Says His ‘Cooking Changed’ Because of Princess Diana — Here’s How

Darren McGrady, who spent 15 years cooking for the British royal family, says his “cooking changed” when he began making meals for the late Princess Diana. Ahead, find out how the chef overhauled his cooking style to suit Princess Diana’s specifications. 

McGrady spent four years cooking for Princess Diana. He worked for her up until her tragic death in 1997 when she died in a car accident at the age of 36. During his tenure cooking for the royal family, McGrady prepared dishes for Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Diana, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex. 

After moving to the U.S. following Princess Diana’s death and opening his own catering service, Eating Royally, as well as writing cookbooks, McGrady opened up about his time working with the royal family, specifically Princess Diana. 

Princess Diana with Catherine Walker on June 2, 1997
Princess Diana with Catherine Walker on June 2, 1997 | Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images

During an interview with Delish published on Jan. 31, McGrady shared a recipe for stuffed peppers — a  favorite dish of Princess Diana’s she ate 2-3 times a week — as well as details about her eating habits and how they informed his cooking. 

His ‘cooking changed’ because of Princess Diana’s healthy eating

While dicing vegetables for the stuffed peppers, McGrady recalled his first meeting with Princess Diana — he remembers saying only two words — and divulged details of a conversation they had when he began cooking for her that resulted in him completely changing the way he cooked. 

“She said to me,‘Darren, you take care of all the fats and I’ll take care of the carbs at the gym,’” McGrady told Delish. “And my cooking changed.”

He made lighter, healthier swaps for dishes per Princess Diana’s recommendation and steered clear of butter and cream. “No more heavy creams and rich sauces. It was healthy eating like this one,” he said referring to the stuffed bell peppers he prepared in the video.

He made ‘mostly vegetarian dishes’ for Princess Diana 

According to McGrady, Princess Diana “didn’t eat beef at all” and only “occasionally” ate lamb if she had guests over. 

“For the most part, it was vegetarian dishes,” he told Delish. “Something like the stuffed bell peppers or stuffed eggplant. She’d also eat fish as well, she loved eating fish.”

By the time McGrady worked for Princess Diana, the royal had treated her bulimia and “got her life back on track,” according to the chef. 

Princess Diana had “gone into the real healthy eating” and began juicing so McGrady followed suit with his cooking for her. However, her guidelines for meals didn’t apply to her sons Princes William and Harry; they ate roasted potatoes and chicken with the skin on.  

Chef Darren McGrady at BritWeek's 10th Anniversary Reception and Gala on May 1, 2016
Chef Darren McGrady at BritWeek’s 10th Anniversary Reception and Gala on May 1, 2016 | Angela Weiss/Getty Images for BritWeek

Prince Harry influenced McGrady’s cooking too

Princess Diana isn’t the royal who impacted McGrady’s cooking style. As a child, Prince Harry offered the chef a tip about how to make bacon crispy, a practice he still uses today. In 2017, McGrady told Food and Wine about how Prince Harry told him to cook bacon in the microwave after he’d seen it done during a family trip to Disney World. 

“Prince Harry said to me, ‘We had it in America at Disney World, and it’s so crispy you can snap it. You have to broil it first, and then you have to put it in some paper towels and place it in the microwave for a minute,’” McGrady recalled Prince Harry telling him about bacon. 

The chef didn’t immediately take the young prince’s advice. After all, he was a young boy offering a very skilled chef cooking tips.

“And I thought, ‘Yeah, OK, thank you, you little brat, teaching me how to cook.’ But as soon as he was gone, I tried it, and I got this amazingly crispy bacon,” McGrady remembered. It’s how he’s prepared bacon ever since.