THOUSANDS of well-wishers are expected today when the Queen visits Chester to honour soldiers from the 1st Battalion Royal Welsh.
Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen will address more than 1,500 soldiers from the battalion, based at Dale Barracks, on Liverpool Road, Upton, at a special Drumhead Service of Thanksgiving to mark their return from operations in Afghanistan.
The Queen will present soldiers with campaign medals during the service at Chester Racecourse, to be followed by a reception for soldiers, families, veterans and cadets.
Yesterday the Leader gained behind-the-scenes access at the Rodee, where chefs, operations managers and service staff were busy preparing for the royal party and more than 3,000 guests to arrive.
Head chef Christopher Kemp said that excitement was building for the Queen’s arrival.
The Michelin-starred chef told the Leader: “The logistics for an event like this are the same as any other, but with the Queen, you have the prestige and there is a great sense of pride to cook for her.
“We have local produce on the menu for the lunch, but that is something we always do here.
“It’s about getting the best produce in that we can.” He added: “There are no special dietary requirements on the Queen’s table.
“She doesn’t want any special treatment so she will eat what everyone else eats.”
Catering manager Phil Dougherty said it was essential the fresh seasonal produce represented the North West on a plate.
Mr Dougherty said: “I have catered for some pretty special people in my time including many celebrities but never have I felt the pride and honour I felt when I was asked to create a meal for the Queen herself.
“The meal I have put together will demonstrate just what a fantastic region the North West is when it comes to food; from the quality and taste of our locally grown produce to the culinary skills shown by our chefs here at Chester Racecourse.
“I hope the meal will be memorable and one the Queen will thoroughly enjoy.”
Just over 300 people will attend the lunch in the new Pavilion Room, including soldiers, families, veterans and cadets.
Conference and events sales manager Dave Taylor said: “I have done a lot of Royal visits in my time here – most recently Prince Charles – and it is nice to be involved.
“I have built up a good rapport with the Royal Welsh officers and they have organised it as a real family occasion.
“The Queen will be on a table in the centre, but her table will not be any different from any of the others. She doesn’t want to be any different.”
More than 2,000 people will enjoy an outside barbecue and fun fair while the lunch takes place. Some 800 special guests will also have a buffet in the County Concourse, staffed by more than 250 people.
The Royal party will firstly travel to the equine centre, Reaseheath College, Cheshire, where the Queen will see groups of students being trained in practical skills.
The Queen will unveil a sculpture to mark her visit and Prince Philip will visit the food processing hall.
He will see students engaged in cheese-making before unveiling a plaque to mark the official opening of the hall.
The Duke will then rejoin the Queen in the Centrepoint building for a tour of facilities before a further plaque is unveiled.
Before the Royal party enjoy their lunch, soldiers will parade for the Queen, who will then present around 240 medals.
Police will close Nun’s Road from about 11am and reopen it at about 12.50pm, depending on security and crowd numbers.
The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh last visited the city nearly six years ago for the marriage of the Duke of Westminster’s daughter, Lady Tamara, at Chester Cathedral.
Princes William and Harry also attended the wedding in November 2004.
Mr Taylor said the majority of security today would be handled by officers and specialists from Scotland Yard, who have been at the Racecourse during the past week to prepare.