Cooking for the Queen: A former royal cook spills the tea on the life of the palace kitchen – National

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – but for those who can, a kitchen job for the Queen just might be their cup of tea.

For Scottish-born chef John Higgins, who now teaches at George Brown College in Toronto, Ontario, the chance to work in the royal kitchens was the opportunity of a lifetime, he says, when he joined as Junior Royal Cook in 1980.

“One of the great benefits of working at Buckingham Palace or for the Royal Household was not just working at the Palace. I had the opportunity to travel to Windsor Castle, Sandringham, Balmoral Castle, Holyrood Palace and then also on the Royal Yacht Britannia,” Higgins said, speaking to Global News ahead of the Jubilee of Queen’s platinum, which marks a historic 70 years on the throne.

“So you never get bored and there was always something new and something different. »

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Higgins is now Director of Hospitality and Culinary Enterprises at the college’s Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. He has cooked for celebrities and heads of state around the world, but said his experience cooking for the Queen was one that has stayed with him throughout his life.

He said years cooking for the Queen had given him insight into her and the royal family beyond the “menagerie” of tabloids reporting on their lives and their likes and dislikes.

“There was a routine, there was consistency, there was a foundation, there were expectations. And you were working with high quality produce, so often you didn’t have to do much with the food – you just had to make sure it was cooked perfectly,” Higgins described.

“There weren’t, as I call it, very creative stuffed animals or chefs for the sake of being creative. It was just, let’s cook a lamb like a lamb should taste.


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Venison and duck, along with salmon, were among the queen’s favorite foods, along with afternoon tea, according to Higgins. She also had clear expectations for what her beloved corgis would eat as well.

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“The queen sent back the corgis’ food,” Higgins said, noting that she preferred diced rather than minced meat.

” It goes without saying, I discovered very, very quickly and very quickly that there was a label with the way things had been done for a very, very long time.

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The UK is currently celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, a milestone that no other British monarch has ever achieved, and which experts say is unlikely to ever happen again.


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To celebrate, Britons are enjoying an extra four-day public holiday which has seen millions flock to shops to buy Jubilee-themed treats like corgi-shaped Swiss roll cakes, as well as a variety typical British foods.

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A spokesperson for Tesco, one of the UK’s biggest grocery chains, said the celebrations had fueled the biggest demand for classic British food in a decade.

According to the grocer’s projections, the long weekend is expected to see Britons buy more than 150,000 bottles of champagne and up to four million bottles of gin – the Queen’s favorite drink.

According to Tesco, up to 125,000 tubs of clotted cream and two million cream cakes, as well as 500,000 trifles, 3.5 million small baskets of strawberries and 650,000 packets of sausage rolls are disappearing from store shelves.

Shoppers are also snapping up some 750,000 packets of pork pies and nearly 500,000 plant-based alternatives such as vegan sausage rolls.

Everything will be piled on the plates this weekend as the country spills onto the streets for thousands of parties and gatherings, all after more than two years of COVID-19-related lockdowns and isolation.

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According to the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, some 16,000 official Platinum Jubilee street parties are registered with permits, along with another 70,000 official lunches held in communities across the country.

And while carrot cake may not be among the classic British dishes on the menu, Higgins said he had it on the palace menu at least once.

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“One of my famous things in life, I introduced carrot cake. I remember they never had carrot cake. It’s 1980 and Rob Pine, the pastry chef, I had seen his book on carrot cake and I thought, I’m going to make this carrot cake,” Higgins said.

“Finally now I’ve read in a few articles that they really like carrot cake – it’s on the menu. So I was the instigator of the carrot cake.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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