When Tamil Nadu threw a banquet in honor of the Queen


Among the guests at the grand banquet were former President R. Ventakaraman, Governor Fathima Beevi, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Mayor MK Stalin and TMC leader GK Moopanar.

Among the guests at the grand banquet were former President R. Ventakaraman, Governor Fathima Beevi, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Mayor MK Stalin and TMC leader GK Moopanar.

When Queen Elizabeth II came to Chennai in October 1997, she had a busy itinerary that included a visit to the silk weavers of Kancheepuram, the Rajiv Gandhi Memorial and Cheshire Home.

The first event was the Governor’s banquet that was hosted at Taj Coromandel, which is where she and Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, stayed with their entourage.

K. Natarajan, who was executive chef of the hotel at the time and retired as Corporate Chef of the Taj Group, recalls how the menu was approved by Buckingham Palace 3-4 months in advance, and they kept practicing. “The State Banquet is a very important meal, and a lot of planning went into it. It was a plated meal and there were over 200 guests, who had to be all served at the same time. We had brought in additional chefs, stewards and waiters so that no guest was made to wait. They didn’t have any soup, but an appetizer was served that day,” he recalled.

Chef Nat, as he is known in the industry, remembers how they imported many ingredients, including cherries, blueberries, zucchini, cheese, fresh asparagus and red and yellow pepper from the Netherlands. “The first item had asparagus. We didn’t get any of these ingredients here then. Later, when we served them their breakfast and dinner at their suite, we couldn’t cook in the pantry because of security protocols. So, we cooked in the main kitchen and locked the elevators so that they would stop only at the seventh floor. Later, I had the opportunity to meet Her Majesty and the Prince in their suite and they appreciated the food very much,” he said.

The hotel had done a lot of preparations for the Queen who stayed there for three days. “On the first day, she arrived at the hotel around 8.30 pm, and though it was after a long journey, she did not rush and enter the hotel, but expressed her happiness at being welcomed to the city,” recalled Sujaya Menon, wife of Shankar Menon, who was vice-president (South) of the group. Wearing a Kancheevaram silk sari, Ms. Menon also welcomed the Queen with a Namaste rather than a courtesy.

The presidential suite and the other suite where Prince Philip stayed were completely done up by the very famous designer Elizabetha Kerkar. “She finished the work only by 1 am the night before. The Queen personally told us how much she enjoyed her suite, which was outfitted in royal blue, with Italian Crema Marfil marble.”

Among the guests at the grand banquet were former President R. Ventakaraman, Governor Fathima Beevi, Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Mayor MK Stalin and TMC leader GK Moopanar, explained sources in the hotel, who were sad at the passing of the Queen.

“We are deeply saddened by the demise of the Queen. It was an honor to have hosted her at Taj Coromandel in 1997 and extended our hospitality to her,” said an official. For many, the passing of the Queen has brought out sorrow and fond memories that they are sharing to reduce the pain.



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