Star at­trac­tion: : Pip Pri­est­ley’s celebrity clien­tele. ele

Beer Gog­gles. Short or­der.

The Weekend Australian - Life - - FOOD & WINE - ALEX SPEED

When Pip Pri­est­ley had the au­dac­ity to be­come the first boy at Gee­long East Tech­ni­cal School to study home eco­nom­ics, school­yard ret­ri­bu­tion was swift. The Aus­tralian per­sonal chef, who to­day cooks pri­vately for Bri­tish roy­alty, celebri­ties and bil­lion­aires, of­ten dur­ing their stalk­ing and fish­ing so­journs on High­land es­tates in Scot­land, says it was lucky he was “a slip of a kid who could run bloody fast”.

“Back then in the mid-1960s, boys in Aus­tralia were go­ing off to elec­tri­cal and me­chan­i­cal trades, but I didn’t like the black grease on my hands and wanted to do cook­ing,” he says. “I saw cook­ing as one as­pect of it and the other as be­ing the only boy with all th­ese girls but, by god, did I get jip for it in the play­ground. I reg­u­larly got chased by bul­lies call­ing me a poof and a girl. I was fair game but I had found my forte.”

Leav­ing school, Pri­est­ley did an ap­pren­tice­ship at what was then a Trav­elodge on St Kilda Road, Mel­bourne. There he learned ev­ery sec­tion of the kitchen and its tech­niques. How to butcher, bone out and fil­let. Pas­tries and sauces. Canapes. Desserts. Later he cooked at Mirra­book, for­merly at the Na­tional Gallery of Aus­tralia, and the Lobby Res­tau­rant, the go-to lunch place for Old Par­lia­ment House politi­cians. Mal­colm Fraser, Bob Hawke, Gough Whit­lam and Paul Keat­ing were reg­u­lars.

Now 60, Pri­est­ley lives in Ed­in­burgh. A snappy dresser with a plummy burr and a pen­chant for fine cigars, it is here while do­ing canapes and cater­ing for the cas­tle city’s busi­ness stal­warts for the past two decades that Pri­est­ley qui­etly built a sta­ble of elite, and very pri­vate, clients. Lords and ladies. Duke and duchesses. HRHs and hon­ourables. Mar­quises and earls. Film stars, actors, co­me­di­ans. The landed gen­try, mil­lion­aires and the uber nou­veau riche all look to Polo Chef (Pri­est­ley’s com­pany, named af­ter his en­dur­ing love of horses and play­ing polo-cross) to bring that spot of je ne sais quoi fine din­ing (and pre­sum­ably an­tipodean flavour) to din­ner par­ties, trips aboard, soirees and in­ner en­ter­tain­ing cir­cles.

Hugh Grant is a some­time client. So are Rowan Atkin­son, Barry Humphries, Gary Bar­low and All Crea­tures Great and Small ac­tor Robert Hardy. For­mer Thatcher min­is­ter Mal­colm Rifkind is a long-time re­peat cus­tomer, as is the Roth­schild fam­ily and the Duke of Northum­ber­land — one of Bri­tain’s wealth­i­est men, his home Al­nwick Cas­tle was used as a back­drop to Hog­warts in the Harry Pot­ter films.

The duke’s daugh­ter, Cather­ine “Katie” Valen­tine, is a lead­ing light in what one Bri­tish tabloid re­cently dubbed “the glossy posse” led by princes Wil­liam and Harry. Pip re­cently cooked at a pri­vate func­tion at­tended by Harry, Katie and their mu­tual up-mar­ket friend, Alexan­der Mavros, son of Zim­bab­wean-born Lon­don sil­ver­smith Pa­trick Mavros. The fam­ily’s flag­ship store on Ful­ham Road is full of ex­pen­sive jew­ellery and exquisitely sculpted sil­ver fig­urines of African an­i­mals, re­put­edly greatly favoured by Kate, the Duchess of Cam­bridge.

“I was away with Harry at a shoot­ing lodge for about a week last year,” re­calls Pri­est­ley, adding he has also cooked for Harry’s aunt, Princess Anne, on sev­eral oc­ca­sions. “Very nice guy. I al­ready knew his body­guard quite well through a friend of mine who was his com­mand­ing of­fi­cer in the army.

“All my work comes through re­peat busi­ness and by word-of-mouth re­fer­rals, and th­ese so­cial con­nec­tions help be­cause you get a rep­u­ta­tion as some­one who not only has all the cook­ing experience but also un­der­stands pro­to­col, presents well and can hold a con­ver­sa­tion. Granted there’s a fine line at times know­ing what you can say and what you can’t say to some of my clients, but be­ing an Aus­tralian helps, I think … I tend to call a spade a spade.”

Pri­est­ley says his food can be “as lux­u­ri­ous or as simple as the client re­quires”. He charges clients about £400 ($760) a day, depend­ing on the work. Menus costs are worked out on a per head ba­sis, and charged £25 to £60 a per­son depend­ing on in­gre­di­ents. Most clients hire Pip to come away with them a min­i­mum of a week. He is off to the Cannes film fes­ti­val with clients for a week next month.

“There are things I al­ways say up­front to new clients,” says Pri­est­ley. “That ‘ you will re­mem­ber the

‘Granted there’s a fine line at times know­ing what you can say and what you can’t say to some of my clients’ PIP PRI­EST­LEY

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