Residents at the new The Park at Surprise, 14630 W. Parkview Drive, might not feel like royalty, but they’re at least eating like a queen.
The new Koelsch Communities senior living community, which celebrated its grand opening in late June, has a royal flair to its food menu.
The food of international celebrity chef Darren McGrady, who cooked for Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana for 15 years, is a part of the main menu for Surprise’s newest senior living community.
“When Koelsch asked me if I wanted to partner on this, I was a bit skeptical because it’s a retirement home,” Mr. McGrady said. “‘Because of my royal chef background, I was used to cooking food at the highest level.
“But we looked them up and saw the standard, and I was just blown away.
Calling it “almost like a country club,” Mr. McGrady signed off on the deal thanks to one big aspect.
“When I cooked for the Queen, everything was attention to detail,” said Mr. McGrady, 57, who now is based out of Dallas. “And that’s what I saw in Koelsch Communities. And it’s attention to detail, everything here. That’s what I loved about working with this community.”
There’s so much detail, in fact, that Mr. McGrady stayed at the senior-living community in late June to help train its cooks on how to make his menu.
“To come up with lots of different recipes that they put on the menu here, that was exciting,” Mr. McGrady said.
The ribbon-cutting celebration featured his recipes for beef wellington, mangers and mash and Princess Di’s favorite desert, bread and butter pudding.
Mr. McGrady trained at the prestigious Savoy Hotel in London. But it was a chance encounter at the Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981 that raised his cooking ambitions.
“My mother was a big fan of the Royals, so she said let’s go to the Royal Wedding and sleep outside Buckingham Palace,” Mr. McGrady said. “While we were waiting and waiting and waiting for the procession I thought, ‘You know, it must be really cool to work in those kitchens right now. They must have the best ingredients and best produce. I want to work there.”
Mr. McGrady wrote a letter to the head of personnel at the Palace inquiring about any open jobs. As luck would have it that person once held the same position at Savoy, getting Mr. McGrady an interview within a couple of weeks.
His first job was preparing carrots for the queen’s horse for her daily rides.
During his 11 years in the Palace, he cooked for more than 100 kings, queens and heads of state worldwide, including Presidents Ford, Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes.
“I became a familiar face in the kitchen,” Mr. McGrady said. “I got to know her by then.”
When Princess Di moved out of the Palace in the early 1990s, Mr. McGrady went with her to Kensington Palace, cooking meals for her and Princes William and Harry up until her death in a car crash in 1997.
He turned down a chance to cook for Prince Charles and decided to go into business for himself in the U.S. instead.
Over the last 20 years, McGrady has lent his recipes to various restaurants across the world. He has also written two books, including “Eating Royally: Recipes and Remembrances from the Royal Kitchen,” a book that details his time with the royals.
All royalties and advances from his book sales are donated to Diana’s charities.
After helping launch The Park in Surprise, Mr. McGrady was back on the road – this time heading for a cruise line in Hong Kong, where his menu will be featured next year.
He also is contracted with other Koelsch facilities.
In addition to the Park, Koelsch operates 30 other communities in Arizona and seven other states. It has been designing world-class senior living communities since 1958.
Call (623) 594-9042 or online at theparkatsurprise.com.