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#QueenAt90: Levi Roots' brush with royalty

FIRM HANDSHAKE: Prince Philip greets Levi

“MR ROOTS, sir,” said the palace usher. “In a moment, His Royal Highness will appear through these doors. I am sure he will want to have a brief talk with you, sir.”

I have always loved and respected royalty. There is something about all that pomp and pageantry that I have always found fascinating. So, as her Majesty celebrates her 90th birthday today (April 21), I’d like to share a recipe that I think is fit for a Queen!

Having worked with her son Charles’ charity, The Prince’s Trust, over the last 10 years, I have had quite a few close-ups with the Royal Family. And during that time, I’ve found out some unexpected facts and labrish (gossip): For example, Prince Edward is actually quite funny and Prince Charles’ favourite reggae singer is Lincoln ‘Sugar’ Minott!

On this particular occasion, I was back at St James Palace to meet the most intriguing Royal of all – the big man himself, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. I was nervous, lowdahmercy!

Before the meeting, my mind was in overdrive: Did I choose the right attire? Was I wearing too much bling? Why couldn’t I be meeting be The Queen – I’d be more comfortable.

I had donned a Savile Row turquoise blue, olde English classic style suit, straight from Ozwald Boateng.

With that, I wore a blue fitted Tom Form shirt, topped of with a slick tie and sliver cufflinks. Surely, the Prince would approve? He reminded me, in some ways, of my own father – a man of discipline and order.

As a young man growing up, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) was all I thought about, I could only dream and imagine going on one of the amazing adventures, exciting excursions and camping trips it offered. I felt I could achieve me one of them coveted Gold DofE Awards HRH was offering, and then get a chance to go to the Palace and meet the man. But I never did.


ROYAL ENGAGEMENT: Levi with Prince Charles

Still, I was here now – 40 years late but better late than never, I suppose! And instead of receiving, I would be giving out awards. They were the latest batch of young achievers of the DofE, and as ambassador for his son, Prince Charles’ charity, I was given the honour of giving out the gongs. Earlier in the day, I had given my address and speech to the families and recipients of the DofE; reminding them to stay focused for the next level if they wish to be among the best.

I watched as Prince Philip worked his way along the line of excited youngsters and their parents, who were all eagerly awaiting a handshake or a chat.

Soon enough, he was in front of me. “Your Highness, this is Mr Levi Roots.” Phew! I was saved by the usher, who gave the introduction and broke the ice before it had even set.

“Mr Roots is a famous chef, he has so kindly presented the Gold DofE Awards today, sire.”

Then, we shook hands – I recall he had the better grip. He took what seemed like a long, long look at me, smiled and then said: “Young man, I thought you’d be fatter!”

To this day, I cannot remember what my response was. Perhaps I didn’t reply. But one thing I know for sure: I liked him. The terror, the fear and the dread I’d felt prior to meeting him, all disappeared right there. But what did he mean? He liked my style and I was in good shape? I’ll take that!

More love, LR.

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