The Night Princess Di’s Chef Cooked Me Dinner


Now when I hear people say they’ve had a meal fit for a king, I know that I win because I did, literally. Chef Darren McGrady has cooked for Queen Elizabeth and the Royal family. But most notably, he became the personal chef for Princess Di, and her sons William and Harry.


He was in her employ on the night she died, and decided to move to America after the tragedy. In the states, he’s been a star chef, writing cookbooks and making appearances. Luckily he came to Richmond this week. I was honored to be a part of an intimate dinner for 20. Before we ate, he charmed us with a food demonstration peppered with royal gossip and funny anecdotes. The talented Catt Levesque snapped these photos while we indulged, and is credited with every amazing photo here.


In the elegant and newly-renovated Mise En Place, he served recipes from his new cookbook The Royal Chef at Home.  We enjoyed a tangy kale quinoa salad with blueberries. There were Stilton and preserved fig canapes, served with fresh grapes. Fiery shrimp and grits, oozing with cheese. To top it off, a buttery bread pudding that’s so exquisite, my words would do it no justice.


We ate like royalty, and he made us feel like royalty. This night was one for the books.


10 Quick Ways to Make It Taste Like Summer

With fresh herbs and fruit, you can add an unexpected, summery twist to your meals.

Here are 10 quick tricks:

1) Not only does watermelon taste better in season, but the abundance makes the prices equally delicious! Buy one the size of a duffel bag and eat it with reckless abandon. Even better? Tear up fresh mint and sprinkle it atop. Or add feta and lettuce to make a salad out of it.

Fresh-picked figs from our backyard
fresh-picked figs from our yard

2) Add some life to your water and throw in basil leaves and peach slices. At first the taste will be clean and herbal. Then it will give way to a peachy sweetness.

3) Figs are heaven on their own. But stuffed with goat cheese, drizzled with honey, then broiled for a short bit? I can’t even talk about it.

4) Did you know that strawberries and balsamic vinegar go together like chocolate and peanut butter? True story. Enjoy them on their own, or drizzle strawberries with a sweet balsamic truffle glaze.

5) Take a few generous springs of rosemary and nestle them into the cavity of a chicken. While roasting,  it will subtly permeate the bird with flavor.

6) Salads aren’t just for vegetables. A vinaigrette is the perfect accompaniment to salads featuring anything from blueberries to peaches to strawberries.

Grilling out back adds even more summer flavor, and gets you outdoors.

7) Back to water again. Lemon rounds and mint are the freshest-tasting compliments to this sometimes drab drink.

There are myriad ways to enjoy the taste of watermelon this summer.

8) Enough with these fake tacos, filled with ground beef and neon orange cheese. Authentic Mexican packs 10x more flavor and has half the calories. Instead of ground beef, go with marinated grilled steak (carne asada) and top it with onions and the season’s fresh cilantro. Make salsa with ripe summer tomatoes.

9) When grilling kabobs on the barbecue, stack the kabobs with pineapple or peach slices. They grill well, and the smoky sweetness is addictive.

10) Fresh-squeezed grapefruit makes an excellent salad dressing. Drizzle it over greens with some freshly-chopped tarragon, thyme and basil, and enjoy the tart, herbal goodness!