In the wake of Queen Elizabeth II’s death, a well-known Toronto chef is recalling his years at Buckingham Palace and Balmoral Castle cooking for Her Majesty.

“I’m really sad. I think it’s the end of a dynasty, a part of history,” Chef John Higgins, a Food Network judge and former director of George Brown’s Culinary School, told CTV News Toronto.

He remembers the Queen as gracious, regal and elegant during his two years in the kitchen at Buckingham Palace and Balmoral beginning in 1980.

“She liked duck, mangoes and chocolate cake,” Higgins said. “It was just really good produce cooked well with consistency and no fluff. Even for the dogs.”

Among his memories of the Queen, several stand out. At the time, Higgins was an avid cyclist and crossed paths with the Queen as he was setting out on a ride from Balmoral in spandex attire.

“She said, ‘Are you off for a bike ride?’” he recalls. After outlining his route to the Queen, he said she smiled and replied, “I think I would be driving. There are so many hills there.”

On another occasion, the Queen was hosting her annual Ghillies Ball at Balmoral, a decades-old tradition of thanking the staff in residence by throwing a Scottish country dance. There, he danced with the Queen and the rest of the royal family.

“I was in shock,” he said. “You get so up close and personal. It was a privilege to see her interact.”

But at the end of the day, the royals are “normal people,” he said. “Every day they get up and hopefully brush their teeth and all the things that normal people do. But at the same time, they had a regiment of things that they had to do,” Higgins said.

“She was the glue who kept the whole thing together, the binder that kept the pages together.”