Ex-chef from Harrogate recalls Queen's favourite dishes

Queen/dinner menu composite
Colin Alderson kept a notebook containing some of the dishes he cooked for Her Majesty. Credit: PA/ITV News

A former chef to the Queen who has kept notebooks and menus dating back more than four decades has lifted the lid on some of Her Majesty's favourite dishes.

Colin Alderson, from Harrogate, North Yorkshire, cooked for the Queen at several of her Royal residences in the 1970s – working as a chef and then a pastry chef.

During his five years of service for the Royals, he developed a close relationship with Her Majesty and Prince Phillip, describing them both as "very special people". They even shared dances and watched films together at Balmoral.

Mr Alderson told ITV News: "It was a super job. The Queen and Prince Phillip really were amazing to you.

"At Balmoral we used to dance with her in the ballroom and watch films.

"She was really kind because we didn’t have televisions in our rooms in those days, so twice a year the Queen would invite the staff to join her to watch the latest films."

Mr Alderson still keeps the menus from his time cooking for the Queen.

Facts about the Queen's banquets

The Queen hosted hundreds of formal banquets during her reign, and the formalities were unsurprisingly lavish and meticulously planned affairs. Here are some of the facts you may not know:

  • Palace staff could take up to three days to lay the tables.

  • Napkins were folded in the shape of a Dutch bonnet and there were six glasses for each person. 

  • Every place setting had to be precisely 18 inches apart.

  • Every chair had to be exactly the same distance from the table and each glass the same distance from the front edge of the table.

  • Staff used a traffic light system to co-ordinate the serving of courses.

  • Detailed diagrams were used to illustrate the serving plans and a list of special instructions set out any dietary requirements and requests for Royals and other guests.

  • Before dinner, speeches took place followed by toasts and the playing of the national anthems.

  • During the meal, guests were advised to start with the silverware on the outside of their place setting and work their way in.

  • Tradition stipulated that when the monarch finished her meal, everyone else must also put their knife and fork down.

  •  The end of the banquet was signalled by the arrival of 12 pipers processing around the room – a tradition that originated with Queen Victoria.

Mr Alderson cooked countless dishes for the Queen during his time with her.

His notes, some of which are written in French, show menus included dishes of poached eggs and creme brulee.

A menu card from a function at Windsor Castle in 1967 shows that she ate beef bourguignon, with sauteed courgettes, creamed potato and salad, followed by a dessert of chocolate mousse and biscuits.

But the former chef said her favourites were cheese soufflé and lamb with a parsley crust.

He added: "It was a big responsibility - imagine if the Prime Minister is sitting there and you have to make the soufflé.

"But if there was an accident in the royal kitchens, the Queen never minded. We’d just say there’d been a terrible accident and she’d say 'that’s alright, I’ll have ice cream'. She was wonderful."

  • Colin Alderson says the Royals were 'amazing'

Although the job could be "nerve-wracking", Mr Alderson remembers it fondly and said it came with many perks - including travelling and Christmas gifts.

He said: "We used to have presents given by her every year personally.

"Two days before Christmas you'd walk in front of the Queen and receive your present and she wished you a happy Christmas, never merry Christmas, and Prince Phillip always used to have a little joke about what gifts we’d get so it was lovely."

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