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Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge join guests at glittering charity gala at Houghton Hall in Norfolk

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at tonight's gala dinner in support of East Anglia's Children's Hospices' nook appeal at Houghton Hall. Picture: Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge at tonight's gala dinner in support of East Anglia's Children's Hospices' nook appeal at Houghton Hall. Picture: Stephen Pond/Getty Images

Prince William joked about his wife’s cooking on Wednesday, when he met top chefs before a charity gala.

The Prince and Duchess of Cambridge joined supporters of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) for a Taste of Norfolk dinner at Houghton Hall.

Chefs Galton Blackiston, Sat Bains, Claude Bosi, Tom Kerridge and Mark Edwards composed a special menu, which included scallops, sea bass, venison from the estate, and local strawberries and raspberries in a blueberry and cider coulis.

Meeting the five beforehand, the Duchess said: “William has to put up with my cooking most of the time.”

The Prince added: “It’s the reason I’m so skinny.”

William asked the chefs how they came to work together. Mr Blackiston, proprietor of Morston Hall Hotel in north Norfolk, said they had become friends through shooting parties, adding: “We don’t hit a lot mind you.”

The Prince said he was relieved England were drawn against Iceland in the next round of the Euro 2016 tournament rather than Portugal, predicting France would be the team’s next opponents.

William and Kate were welcomed to Houghton - a few minutes’ drive from their home at Anmer Hall - by hosts the Marquess and Marchioness of Cholmondeley, who threw open their doors to 80 guests from as far afield as America and Hong Kong.

The Duchess dazzled in a mother-of-pearl dress by designer Jenny Packham, while the duke arrived in a suit. Her husband wore a tux and dickie bow.

Guests included Lord and Lady Leicester, and North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham, who said: “It’s a great event, it’s such a privilege having the Duke and Duchess here, it’s such a really good cause.”

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, in whose constituency the new hospice will be built, said: “I think it’s marvellous that we’ve got a large number of supporters here who are going to help in a big way.”

EACH ambassador, the author Anthony Horowitz, addressed guests at a champagne reception on the lawn of the late 17th Century mansion beforehand.

“I’d like to start by making three very quick thank you’s,” he said. “The first of course to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge for being here tonight. The Duchess is a wonderfully active, involved and enlightened royal patron to EACH.

“It’s a pleasure to see her. And I only hope the duke has a more satisfying evening that he had on Monday night at Saint-Etienne. So much effort for so little result let’s hope we can’t say the same about tonight.

“We’re going to have a fantastic evening. A superb meal in this beautiful, Palladian home. Enlightened company. Not too many speeches. And best of all, we’re going to help build something that is really quite wonderful.”

Mr Horowitz said the current Quidenham Hospice was “in the middle of nowhere” and inadequate for the region’s terminally-ill children and their families’ needs.

“The nook will have wide corridors, wide doors, and everything on one floor. It will have a hydrotherapy pool, a proper music room, an art room – and every penny that we raise will be used for a specific purpose – whether it’s £300 for a fridge, £7,000 for a hoist or £205,000 for a single room.

“ At the Nook, children will have film nights and sleepovers. They’ll make pizzas. They’ll be able to chill out. Of course these are things are own children take for granted – but for them it will be utterly special, even unique,” he said.

Before he returned to the kitchen with his team, Mr Blackiston said he had been moved by a visit to EACH’s current hospice, at Quidenham, last week, after he agreed to become involved with the dinner.

“I was asked if I could do anything to support this evening,” he said. “I thought I know a few guys who could help out and they jumped at it.”

EACH hoped the dinner would raise more than £100,000 for the appeal, which currently stands at £2.5m. Work is expected to start on the new hospice in 2018.


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