Rustic Canyon Gets the Royal Touch

By JOHN HARLOW | Editor-in-Chief

A chance meeting between a B-movie and documentary producer from Rustic Canyon and a former chef to the Prince and late Princess of Wales is creating waves around the gastronomic world.

On the afternoon of Saturday, June 10, Angelenos have their first opportunity to taste the fruits—and cakes and cookies—of this most unexpected “hands across the water” partnership.

This is when Carolyn Robb, who was chef to Prince Charles, Princess Diana and their two sons for many years, will be speaking and cooking at Williams-Sonoma in Beverly Hills.

Carolyn Robb

But it’s a journey that might not have started without Bill Schwartz, born and raised on Latimer Road in the “golden age of Rustic Canyon, when there were more ducks than cars on the road.”

He is the “secret sauce” in the recipe, the fixer who has helped this very British-proper chef become an international sensation.

They bumped into each other a decade ago in a British supermarket near Henley-on-Thames, bonding over baked goods.

Bill Schwartz Photos courtesy of Royal Touch

Schwartz was living in an idyllic boat house on the River Thames while working on a  documentary about the fantasy film “The Golden Compass,” which was expected to be a massive film hit. (It wasn’t.) These are called “minnows” because they follow the “big fish.”

He specializes in producing direct-to-video movies that shamelessly, but legally, cash in on major studio projects. Some call them minnows; Others have less complimentary terms for them.

There was a documentary about the Titanic that would come about at the same time as the James Cameron epic big fish. Then there was, to Disney’s lawyerly irritation, “Young Pocahontas” or “The Secret of The Little Mermaid.”

One even had Julie Andrews in it.  None to be taken too seriously.

By contrast, Robb was very serious when, at 8 years old, she stood outside Buckingham Palace and told her father, “One day I am going to cook in there.” And she did.

The South African-born chef was a nervous 21-year-old when she was invited to Kensington Palace to interview for a job cooking for the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.

They lived next door to Prince Charles and Princess Diana who, two years later, invited her to cook for them instead.

For the next 11 years, she cooked for the royals, working out recipes with the heir to the British throne using vegetables from his organic garden, baking with the young princes William and Harry, later teaching them how to cook simple dishes for themselves such as “SpagBog”—or Spaghetti Bolognese—and Chicken Kiev.

“They were very kind and caring parents and employers,” she told the Palisadian-Post last week.

Despite many lucrative offers, Robb is still discretely polite about the dramas she must have witnessed behind the scenes.

But after 13 years she wanted to move on, spending more time raising her own children. She wanted to produce a cookbook of royal favorites.

And this is where the garrulous and extroverted Schwartz stepped in, digging out the contacts, honing the deals, spreading the message like a super-salesman.

They have co-founded a commercial operation called “The Royal Touch.”

“Carolyn is the real deal—very authentic, modest and yet with impeccable tastes,” Schwartz said last week.

“Which is why the first edition of the cookbook, ‘The Royal Touch,’ has sold out and we are busy printing a second edition.”

After all, which “Downton Abbey” fan does not want to know the recipe for Prince William’s favorite chocolate treat?

And now, thanks to a partnership of talents stretching from South Africa to Pacific Palisades, you too can bake a royal cookie or two. Or, if you insist, SpagBog a la royale.