Durban - Whipping up a meal fit for a king is no problem for former royal chef, Carolyn Robb.
Robb, who grew up in Pietermaritzburg and attended St Anne’s, was the personal chef to Prince Charles and Princess Diana and their two sons, Princes William and Harry.
She has just finished filming four episodes for the second series of television hit show Royal Recipes, which is due to be broadcast on ITV Choice on November 5.
Robb said her love of food and cooking was inspired by her mother, but training as a chef only became a serious career choice when she visited Switzerland, after studying French and German at UKZN Pietermaritzburg.
“I had a gap year and worked in Le Coq coffee shop and Terrace Garden Restaurant in Pietermaritzburg and then went to university.
“It was during this time, my brother, John, was backpacking around Europe and when he visited Switzerland, he sent me a postcard saying how beautiful it was.
“He suggested I get a job there in the ski season, which is exactly what I did. After that I knew definitely wanted to get a professional cookery qualification,” she said.
Completing a diploma in Cordon Bleu Cookery in the UK, Robb’s career with royalty of the realm started when she was employed as a chef to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester at Kensington Palace.
Two years later, in 1989 she took up the position as personal chef to Charles and Diana and their sons.
Speaking about cooking and baking for William and Harry, Robb said she made “little mouse cupcakes which have a special association for me as they are what I made for William and Harry the first time I cooked for them”.
She added that when the princes were young, “they both loved coming into the kitchen to bake cakes and biscuits and it was always great fun”.
“My happiest memory is of accompanying the family to the Scilly Isles, off Cornwall, for a wonderful summer holiday. It was a week of picnics, bicycle rides and exploring the island”.
William’s groom cake at his wedding was a chocolate biscuit cake which Robb’s mother used to make for her.
“I loved making it for the two young princes. William’s (groom’s) cake was made and gifted to him by McVities, the company that makes the biscuits in the cake. It was similar to a South African ‘fridge cake’.”
Her speciality for Charles was her soda bread: “It was a great favourite and we always had a freshly baked loaf on hand to use for sandwiches and for toast to serve with the starter at dinner.
“It is very quick and easy to make and Prince Charles loved it with lots of fresh herbs in it.”
She also cooked for Charles when he was in hospital after a sporting injury.
“He had fallen off his horse while playing polo and had to have a plate put into his right arm which was broken. One of the dishes I cooked for him while he was in hospital was a poached egg on some crushed new potatoes with fresh herbs and a Parmesan sauce.
“He even took the time to write a note to me with his left hand telling me how much he had enjoyed the dish,” she said.
Robb worked with CNN for William and Harry’s weddings: “I was in Windsor on the Friday and again very early on Saturday morning. I am delighted to see them both happily married and with wonderful wives.”
When it comes to some tips on how to serve a “right royal dish” at a dinner party, Robb said: “Keep the menu simple, use locally grown seasonal fresh produce and use plenty of fresh herbs, they add wonderful colour, flavour and aroma to a dish”.
Her “must have” ingredients in her kitchen are good quality cooking chocolate, a selection of oils (olive, nut, avocado, coconut), and parmigiano reggiano (Parmesan).
She also said a trend was less sugar content in recipes, while “simple sponge cakes with fresh flowers” were popular for wedding cakes.
Having already done well with her cookbook The Royal Touch: Simply Stunning Home Cooking from a Former Royal Chef which features 100 recipes “taken from my time growing up in South Africa and cooking with my mother, my time as a royal chef, foods I have discovered on my travels and the food I cook for my daughters now”, Robb is now working on her next book and her kitchen and tableware.