The recipe "Poulet Reine Elizabeth" now widely known as Coronation Chicken has been created by Le Cordon Bleu London to be served at the Coronation Luncheon in 1953. This is the extraordinary story of the recipe and of one of the most significant moments of Le Cordon Bleu London.
Le Cordon Bleu, world renowned for the best education in culinary and used as benchmark for excellence in the industry right back in the 16th century. The prestigious culinary school has always been proud of its diverse network of students and it was Rosemary Hume, a former Paris student that opened L’Ecole du Petit Cordon Bleu in Marylebone, London in 1933 - making Le Cordon Bleu London one of the oldest cookery schools in the UK.
Twenty years after the school had opened its doors, its success was confirmed when it prepared the Coronation luncheon for Queen Elizabeth II in January 1953, for which the Coronation Chicken recipe was first created.
Sir David Eccles, the Minister of Works exclusively asked Rosemary Hume and her students to undertake the luncheon for Her Majesty’s guests, who were mainly representatives of other countries. The school was honoured to be involved in such a special occasion, and served the Coronation Day banquet to three hundred and fifty people in the Great Hall of Westminster School, the largest party to have been seated there.
Sir David Eccles had great faith in the students’ abilities and without a hitch the luncheon was served at two o’clock.
Principal of Le Cordon Bleu London, Ms Gray commented on the special moment for the school: “It was unique for a culinary institution to be selected to cater for such a prestigious occasion and reflects the high regard for Le Cordon Bleu London over sixty years ago. Further invitations to cook for royalty came from the success of this event.”
The original dish that was served can be found on the menu as Poulet Reine Elizabeth, which in today’s world translates to Coronation Chicken. It is described as chicken, boned and coated in curry cream sauce, with, one end of each dish, a well-seasoned dressed salad of rice, green peas and pimentos.
Le Cordon Bleu is world renowned for being at the forefront of the gastronomy industry, and even at the time of the luncheon, serving Coronation Chicken curry to such a large number of people with many different preferences could have been seen as a challenge. However through the carefully seasoned chicken and delicate nut-like flavours running through the sauce, it was marked as a huge success.
The ingredients used were remarkable for their time, with many of them only just becoming available, whilst the majority of the country was still under the restrictions of post-war rationing. The original recipe consisted of young roasting chickens, water and a little wine to cover carrot, a bouquet garni, salt, peppercorns and a cream of curry sauce.
A slightly more developed version of the recipe is still a nation’s favourite today and is served as a lunch dish at Café Le Cordon Bleu London.