The Surprising Place Princess Diana Often Ate Lunch

If not for the tragic accident that took her lifePrincess Diana would have been 60 this year. As the royal family reunites to honor Princess Diana's legacy with a statue in the Kensington Palace gardens, those who knew her are sharing memories about the all-too-brief time they enjoyed with the "People's Princess."

One of these people is chef Darren McGrady, a man who knew Diana and spent 11 years keeping the royal family fed. While he calls her a "fairy tale princess," in his YouTube birthday tribute to her, he shared that this real-life princess was also very down-to-earth, paying frequent visits to the palace kitchens. He relates how she visited the kitchens on numerous occasions, often with one or both of her young sons in tow. "She'd always be in the kitchen," McGrady says of Diana, going on to tell how, "She loved coming in the kitchen and just sitting there and chatting." Chatting, however, wasn't all she did in the kitchen. Every so often, Princess Diana would do as we ordinary folks do and have her lunch at the kitchen table.

McGrady and Princess Diana enjoyed many a lunchtime conversation

As chef McGrady tells it (via YouTube), "At lunch times, when [Diana] was eating on her own, she would eat in the kitchen on a tray at the table and just chat while I was sort of preparing food for dinner that night." If either of the young princes was home, McGrady says their mum would of course join them in their quarters for the midday meal, while if she had guests, she would entertain them somewhere more formal than the kitchen. (At such times, William and Harry were packed off to lunch with nanny in the nursery.)

Even after all these years, McGrady has fond memories of those times he shared with Princess Diana at her kitchen table lunches. "I always enjoyed seeing her in the kitchen ... she would just talk about anything and everything that was going on." He shared some of the princess's favorite foods: sole Florentine, lobster thermidor, and pear flan. He says the recipes for all of these dishes can be found in his 2007 cookbook, "Eating Royally."

Princess Diana also enjoyed simpler foods

If lobster thermidor is out of your culinary comfort zone, you're in good (even royal) company. Princess Diana herself, according to chef McGrady, wasn't much of a cook. When McGrady was away, he'd leave pre-prepped meals for her with instructions on how to heat them up in the microwave, something she seems to have managed without incident. One time, however, the princess tried to make pasta and put the stove's pilot light out. She later confessed: "Darren, you won't believe it, I cooked at the weekend but I nearly set the whole palace on fire!" She called in the palace fire brigade to deal with the problem, but all ended well. As Princess Diana reportedly told McGrady, "I had 12 hunky firemen all to myself!"

When Princess Diana was lunching alone in the kitchen, she didn't always dine on fancy fare. McGrady shares what he says was "one of her real favorite meals, a dish called eggs Suzette." According to his YouTube tutorial, this consists of a baked potato filled with spinach and topped with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. "That and a nice bowl of salad," says McGrady, "and she'd just sit here at the countertop in the kitchen and just eat away." He describes this lunch as "delicious," and admits "I'd always do a spare one for me when she'd gone."