Hospitality Business Magazine

When Peter Gordon took his Gran to meet the Queen & Tony Astle omitted the strawberries

Hospitality Business Exclusive

Queen Elizabeth ll, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, has died – but she will be forever etched on the memories of those lucky enough to meet and serve her.

Peter Gordon had the privilege twice, and on each occasion his beloved grandmother Molly was front and centre.

Chef Peter Gordon ONZM.

“The first time I met the Queen was back in 2009 when I cooked lunch for her, the Duke and personal friends Sir Don McKinnon and Lady Clare at a private home in Mayfair.

“I cooked Scottish salmon two ways, followed by Welsh Black beef with celeriac gratin, and for dessert I made shortbread with baked rhubarb and a chocolate passion fruit delice.”

Why the shortbread?

“My paternal gran, Molly had received a QSM from the Queen for her charitable work so I figured if I was going to meet the Queen, I’d better have a bit of grandma with me. At the end of the meal the Queen and Prince Phillip descended the stairs to have a chat. I couldn’t help thinking what beautiful skin she had.”

Peter got another chance to check out the Queen’s great complexion later that year when she presented him with an ONZM (the New Zealand equivalent of an OBE) at Windsor Castle, in recognition of his services to the food industry.

“Initially I was told I’d receive the award from the Governor General when I next came back to New Zealand – but since Gran had received her QSM from the Queen, I felt entitled to as well!”

A little negotiation and determination went a long way. In December 2009 Peter was awarded his ONZM by the Queen herself, following in the footsteps of Grandma Molly and adding another gift from the monarchy to the Gordon family lineage.

“Whenever my dad Bruce says ‘I think they missed someone’, I say ‘Dad, you just have to try a bit harder’!”

Leading New Zealand Chef, Tony Astle.

Clayton’s Queen’s visit

Antoine’s Tony Astle is another excellent Kiwi chef with a soft spot for the much-loved monarch. Why? Well, he almost met her once – an experience he has dubbed ‘the Clayton’s Queen’s visit’.

“They booked the restaurant out well over a year before the Queen and Prince Philip came to New Zealand in 1986. I had to sign documents that swore me to secrecy – I didn’t even tell my wife for the first six months!

“A couple of months before the visit we had police crawling all over the roof of Antoine’s scoping out the security. It didn’t take long for people to figure out something big was happening.

“The booking was for 14 people. We polished every piece of silver and even repainted the walls. It wasn’t until the party arrived that we found out the Queen wasn’t coming because she had food poisoning.

“We were so disappointed but it actually ended up being a fun night. I’d read that Prince Philip didn’t eat strawberries, so when we served dessert (Antoine’s roulade with fresh fruit) we omitted the strawberries from his plate. However, we soon noticed him pinching strawberries from other people’s plates. When they’d finished he asked me ‘why didn’t I get any bloody strawberries?’, to which I replied ‘but you don’t eat strawberries’. His response? ‘Don’t believe everything you read in those women’s magazines!”