Meet the London, Ont. pastry chef who cooked for Queen Elizabeth II

Bruce Springsteen, Tina Turner and Wayne Gretzky have all tasted this London, Ont. the chef’s delicious culinary creations.

But one day engraved in Roland Hofner’s memory is the time when he cooked for Queen Elizabeth II.

He prepared dessert for Queen Elizabeth II during her royal tour of Canada in 1984 while working as a pastry chef and baker at a hotel formerly known as the Toronto Hilton Harbor Castle. A parfait made with crown-shaped Niagara peaches was the confectionery of choice for the occasion, he said.

It was “a pretty exciting event,” said Hofner, who also prepared after-dinner bites, cookies and chocolates. Over 2,000 guests attended the event nearly 40 years ago.

Crowds gathered across the country to greet Queen Elizabeth II during her royal tour of Canada in 1984. (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)

The menu took six months of preparation and testing by government officials to make sure it was right for him,” Hofner said.

A grainy photo shows a white ice cream-like dessert in the shape of a crown.
This is the dessert made for the Queen in 1984. (Submitted by Roland Hofner)

He managed to catch a glimpse of the Queen eating with Prince Philip by peeking through a doorway, he said. He vividly remembers the gratitude they showed.

“They enjoyed it very much,” he said. “She wrote us a thank you letter and we all received a small commemorative coin which she gave to us.”

“I was unable to meet her, unfortunately one-on-one, but I think cooking for her was everything a chef could dream of.”

Police and health officials stood by while they cooked

Pulling off the big day was an “unnerving” experience that came with added pressure.

“Everyone felt very special and very happy cooking and cooking for her, but there was huge tension among the hotel staff that everything would go as planned,” he said. “Everyone was on tiptoe to make sure everything was done to perfection.”

During a royal tour of Canada in 1984, Queen Elizabeth II visited Toronto to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary. (Provincial Archives of New Brunswick)

The police checked their political backgrounds and two health services and police officers stood by as they cooked, he recalled.

“Police with one of these high-powered weapons standing right next to me in the bakery, fully armed, making sure everything was going as it should and there was no interference,” did he declare.

The food was tested by health services throughout the day to ensure nothing was added that shouldn’t be, he said.

The chef brings his culinary expertise to London, Ontario.

The Queen’s visit was one of many experiences Hofner has had cooking for royals and celebrities throughout his career. He has decades of experience in five-star hotels, exclusive cruise ships and the management of bakeries and catering businesses in Canada and abroad.

Uniformed chef stands with student rolling dough in commercial kitchen
Chef Roland Hofner works as the Coordinator of Fanshawe College’s Bakery and Pastry Management Program at their central London campus at 130 Dundas St. (Michelle Both/CBC)

Eventually, he and his wife decided to settle in his hometown of London.

Hofner joined Fanshawe College in 1997 as a culinary instructor and has now been teaching his craft in London for over two decades. Now he works as the coordinator of their Baking and Pastry Arts Management Program after starting it five years ago.

“It was very successful,” said Hofner, who has also used his success to connect students with accreditation from internationally renowned Swiss bakery school Richemont.

hands roll out the dough
Hofner still remembers the harrowing experience of making dessert for Queen Elizabeth II during her royal tour of Canada in 1984. He shares the story with the inspirational students. (Michelle Both/CBC)

“It’s very exciting because we’re the only school, the only college in North America to have such an accreditation from such a top European school,” he said.

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