October 1, 2023


Travel Adventure

Former head chef for royal family opens food truck in Vancouver

4 min read

Winston’s British Fish N Chips offers an authentic meal created by chef Darren McGrady, the former head chef for the late Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana.

VANCOUVER, Wash. — At Winston’s British Fish N Chips, you can usually find a line of people waiting for the Vancouver food cart to open. The food cart, painted in the red, white and blue of the British flag, sits at 2711 Northeast Andresen Road, just south of the Vancouver Mall area.

It opened in March and has already exceeded expectations of co-founder Timothy Johnson.

“The word I would use is beyond belief,” he said.

Johnson recently left a career as CEO of a technology company. He said the idea of creating a fish-and-chips food truck took him back to his childhood, based on his favorite Portland restaurant, Enry Beazley’s.

“Then I suddenly thought about the food-cart craze,” Johnson said.

He put two and two together and the idea was born. But Johnson wasn’t a chef. He started researching fish and chips and came across Chef Darren McGrady and pitched him the idea.

“I said, ‘I’ve got to talk to this guy,'” Johnson said.

McGrady said he initially put off the meeting: “I looked at it and thought, food trucks?”

McGrady was first brought on as a consultant, but after meeting with Johnson, the two quickly realized they both had the same passion for fish and chips and McGrady became co-owner alongside Johnson.

“I ended up thinking to myself, ‘this is a dream come true,'” Johnson said.

When asked why he chose to help open a food truck, McGrady said, “You know what, I’ve cooked for kings and queens, presidents — Reagan, Clinton, Ford, both president Bushes. It’s time to have some fun and that is what we’re doing right now with the food truck.”

McGrady attended culinary school in the United Kingdom and said he graduated at the top of his class. He began his culinary career at the 5-star Savoy Hotel in London.

Years before McGrady was creating dishes for a food-truck menu, he was preparing meals for heads of state and the late Queen of England at Buckingham Palace. It was a job he first thought about doing while his family waited outside the palace before Prince Charles and Diana’s wedding.

“And while we were waiting and waiting and waiting, I thought, ‘how cool would it be right now to be in those royal kitchens and cooking for kings, queens, presidents? They must have the best ingredients and best produce. I want to work there. I want to be a royal chef,'” he said.

That dream came true within a few months.

“I always remembered my first [time] cooking for the royals. We’d gone to Balmoral Castle and they said, ‘You’re going to be dog chef.’ I said, ‘What does that mean?’ They said, ‘The queen’s got 12 corgis and you need to cook for the corgis,'” McGrady said.

McGrady worked his way up from there.

“Another job is peeling carrots,” he said. “I remember peeling carrots with the head chef and trimming them and he says, ‘These are for the queen.'”

He said he was so excited that he was finally cooking for the queen that he wanted to call his mom and tell her the good news. He quickly learned the carrots weren’t for the queen, but for her horses.

“When it came to favorites, the dogs came first and then the horses and then her family,” McGrady said. He then added with a smile, “and the chefs were number 100 at the bottom.”

McGrady eventually worked his way to the top and became the head chef at Buckingham Palace.

“If the queen came into the kitchen, you stood to attention, you moved pans off the stove and then you spoke to her if you needed to,” McGrady said.

When then-Prince Charles and Princess Diana split up, he left Buckingham Palace and became Diana’s personal chef until her death in 1997.

McGrady then moved to the United States and started his business ventures here. Which brings us back to Winston’s British Fish N Chips.

“This is so tiny,” McGrady said, smiling from inside the food truck. “This is like a walk-in refrigerator at Buckingham Palace.”

The menu offers five choices; the favorite is two pieces of Alaskan cod dredged in flour, then dipped in the batter and dropped in the fryer. Each basket of fish and chips is made to order.

“I wanted the fish cooked to order like it is in England, like it is authentic British fish and chips,” McGrady said.

The chips are added and customers can choose either a side of curry sauce or mushy peas. McGrady said either option adds to the authenticity of the meal.

The fish and chips are served in a to-go box that looks more royal than your typical to-go container.

“I wanted the fish and chips to be as good as when they are passed through that window, for 40 minutes, to allow people to get to the office, to get home, to get to school, to get to the hospital, wherever they were going to go with them and they’d still be nice and crunchy,” McGrady said.

In May, Winston’s will open a second location in Dallas, Texas, where McGrady lives.


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