Real-life chef depicted in ‘Spencer’ dishes on Princess Diana’s secret life

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Real-life chef depicted in ‘Spencer’ dishes on Princess Diana's secret life

This article contains plot spoilers for the movie “Spencer.”

In one of the key scenes in the critically-acclaimed new movie “Spencer,” Kristen Stewart, the actress who plays the doomed Princess Diana, fixes her eyes on a palace chef and asks: “Will they kill me, do you think?”

The disturbing question, featured in the movie trailer, echoes conspiracy theories about the high-speed Paris crash that killed the former wife of Prince Charles on August 31, 1997, at the age of 36. Some believe the British Establishment had her rubbed out.

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Post, Darren McGrady, the real-life version of the chef, tells how his late boss once joked about her car being meddled with.

“I was about to drive her car to a gas station because she felt vulnerable doing it herself,” said McGrady, referring to the way Diana’s fans would sometimes bother her in public. “And she joked: ‘Watch the brakes, Darren. I think someone’s been tampering with them.’”

He laughed it off and, unlike the conspiracy theorists, accepts the 2008 verdict of the official inquest into her death. “I definitely think it was a horrible accident,” said McGrady, dismissing the unfounded rumors of foul play. “There were so many other ways [in which] someone could have gotten to her that were easier than doing it in Paris in a tunnel.”

The 59-year-old, who cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the family for 11 years, became especially close to the princess during the four years he worked exclusively for her at Kensington Palace. She employed him between 1993 and 1997 and he was “let go” soon after she died.

He knew her preferred foods — which ranged from healthy fresh fruit to stodgy English fare like bread and butter pudding — and got sneaky by making sure her mother-in-law, who signed off on the menu for their lunches, included Diana’s favorite dessert of crepe soufflé.

“I was a bit manipulative,” McGrady said. “I had to suggest two dishes so I’d make the first choice something I knew the queen didn’t like so she’d pick the second option of crepe soufflé.”

He explained that, while he’d heard rumors about Diana’s bulimia from other members of staff, items didn’t go missing from the fridge and he never heard her regurgitating anything in the bathroom.

“All this must have been done in private,” McGrady noted, adding that he found the controversial vomiting scenes in “Spencer” “upsetting.”

McGrady treasures this photo Princess Diana autographed for him and his wife, Wendy.
McGrady treasures this photo Princess Diana autographed for him and his wife, Wendy.

As far as the chef was concerned, Diana was a mostly happy-go-lucky person who seemed able to forget her troubles, especially when she was distracted by pop music and dancing. McGrady often played the unofficial DJ at staff gatherings and would stage discos at the various royal residences.

He particularly relishes the fun celebration he arranged at Sandringham during a Christmas when Diana gatecrashed the party with Charles’ cousin, Lady Sarah Armstrong Jones, the daughter of Princess Margaret, now known by her married name Lady Sarah Chatto.

“As soon as I spotted them, I put on ‘Uptown Girl’ because the princess loved Billy Joel,” McGrady said. “They started dancing with some of the folks and it was wonderful to see them joining in.”

Actor Sean Harris plays the part of palace chef, Darren McGrady, in the new movie "Spencer."
Actor Sean Harris, star of “Mission Impossible,” plays the part of palace chef, Darren McGrady, in the new movie “Spencer.”
Sipa USA via AP

On another occasion, the chef stumbled across Diana when she was taking one of her regular solo walks in the grounds. She was absorbed in the music playing through her headphones. “I asked her what she was listening to and she replied: ‘Phil Collins,’” recalled McGrady. “When I asked which song, she said: “‘Another Day in Paradise.’ It was her little joke since we both knew Sandringham wasn’t exactly her favorite place.”

Diana also insisted on dancing with the chef at the annual Gilles ball at Balmoral, the queen’s majestic estate in Scotland, where it was traditional for the royals to make merry with their staff.

“I’d told her that I couldn’t put one foot in front of the other but she wouldn’t listen,” he said. “But it was a waltz and she somehow took the lead and just spun me around.”

He said Diana’s sardonic sense of humor was one of her most attractive traits. She would often exaggerate in order get laughs. For example, McGrady was walking his two German Shepherds in the park next to Windsor Castle when they made a beeline for the princess as she enjoyed the fresh air. They leapt up and dirtied her clothes.

“She had an appointment with the queen and turned up a bit muddy,” said the chef. “I later got talking to another employee who’d asked the princess what happened. She said: ‘Oh, I just got savaged by Darren’s wolves.’ It was typical of the jokes she cracked.”

When Princess Diana was asked why she owned a German Mercedes Benz, she quipped: "Well, they’re a lot more reliable than German husbands,’” referring to her husband’s controversial bloodline.
When Princess Diana was asked why she owned a German Mercedes Benz, she quipped: “Well, they’re a lot more reliable than German husbands,” referring to her husband’s controversial bloodline.

Yet another witty anecdote he heard about Diana concerned her replacing her old car with a spanking new Mercedes Benz. Someone asked why she’d bought a German vehicle when she was a British princess who was supposed to support the UK economy.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles
Darren McGrady cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the family for 11 years.
ZUMAPRESS.com

“Quick as a flash, she said: ‘Well. they’re a lot more reliable than German husbands,’” McGrady recalled. Diana was, of course, referring to the Germanic heritage of Prince Charles, breaking the unspoken rule that family members shouldn’t mention the controversial Windsor bloodline.

“Spencer” does not cover the untimely death of Diana. However, a subtitle displayed at the beginning and the end of the film labels it “as a fable from a true tragedy.” The movie, which is set in December 1991 over a period of three days, explores the fraught nature of the last Christmas Diana spent with her in-laws before officially separating from Charles the following year.

It is based on the real-life festivities which took place at Sandringham, the country estate owned by the queen where the Windsors always spend the winter holidays. However, the script is very much an imagining and often strays into the realms of fantasy. In one scene, for example, the princess dashes through the trees in her famously frou-frou ’80s wedding dress. Another time she becomes so agitated, she tears a giant string of pearls from her neck and watches in shock as the gems plop into her soup.

McGrady, a British ex-pat who moved from England to the US in 1997, worked as a senior chef at Sandringham during the Christmas portrayed in the film. His on-screen character, played by “Mission Impossible” star Sean Harris, is called Darren. He is the only servant to be named after a real person in “Spencer.” Meanwhile Paul Burrell, the better-known butler whom Diana once described as “my rock,” is noticeably absent.

Darren (black hair with the mustache) with the queen and other palace staff.
McGrady (black hair with the mustache) with the queen and her late husband, Prince Philip, alongside other palace staff.

By contrast, McGrady plays an important part in the story and appears in several sequences with Diana. “Some of our scenes are close to the truth, but others get things completely wrong,” McGrady told The Post, pointing out that he wasn’t contacted by the screenwriters to share his insight.

The Brit, who owns his own company, Eating Royally Catering and hosts a popular YouTube channel, quipped: “Maybe it was because they’d have had to pay me!”

The father-of-two, who first saw “Spencer” in his adopted city of Plano, TX, when it was released on Nov. 5, said one of the scenes in the film which happened for sure was Diana’s impromptu visit to a nearby beach. It was to escape the constraints of Sandringham one afternoon that Christmas.

The chef would often prepare Diana's favorite bread pudding (right) and stuffed bell pepper (left).
The chef would often prepare Diana’s favorite bread and butter pudding (right) and other fare such as stuffed bell peppers (left).
Shutterstock

Diana later told the chef that she’d “needed to blow away the cobwebs” and had left the estate for the seaside without telling her protection team. “Nobody knew where she was,” McGrady recalled. “When she got back, she said to me: ‘I think I’m in trouble.’”

A holiday dinner McGrady once prepared for the princess.
A holiday dinner McGrady once made for the princess at her apartment in Kensington Palace.

And although Diana loved a good giggle and enjoyed it when the staff treated her with irreverence as opposed to deference, one time the joking backfired.

The incident – which is not depicted in “Spencer” — happened during Christmas of 1991 and involved a co-worker named Victor who’d trade gags with Diana when she ventured into the kitchen for a snack or gossip. “She came one day and walked into the silver pantry to grab a spoon for her pudding,” McGrady remembered. “Victor, who was always loud and over the top, [ostentatiously] said: “‘Oooh! It’s Queen Diana!’”

The princess, who would normally find that kind of comment funny, replied: “Please don’t call me queen, Victor,” adding “I’ll never be queen.”

A holiday card Princess Diana sent to Darren McGrady
Princes William and Harry are pictured in a holiday card Princess Diana sent to Darren McGrady.

There was an awkward silence. Nobody in the kitchen could have predicted the way she would repeat the statement in her earth-shattering interview with the BBC two years before she died.

Meanwhile, McGrady, who admits that watching “Spencer” made him miss Diana more than ever, prefers to treasure memories of the joyful occasions left out of the somewhat gloomy film.

“The kitchen at Sandringham was located right next to the dining room,” he said. “We could hear the princess sitting at the table in fits of laughter. That laugh was highly infectious.”

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