Masterchef: The Professionals winner, writer, celebrity cook and Scotland’s National Chef Gary Maclean rolled up his sleeves and got stuck into preparations in the community centre’s kitchen.
“I try to do as many community events like this as I can – I think it’s my responsibility to support this kind of work,” he explains. “Food touches everyone, it’s such an easy way to bring people together, whatever their background.”
The event was a Galloway Gathering, part of a month-long project run by Galloway Cheddar in partnership with food distribution charity, FareShare Scotland.
The cheese brand is supporting the charity’s network of community kitchens and cafes to provide the equivalent of 10,000 hot meals at community gatherings across Scotland, helping to tackle food poverty and loneliness.
At Heart of Scotstoun, more than 60 families and people of all ages gathered together for some mac’n’cheese and fun activities including dancing, bingo and exercises.
Gary, whose “day job” is executive chef lecturer at City of Glasgow College, is passionate about food education.
“I’m loving being part of these events because I get the chance to meet volunteers who are doing this every day,” he says. “I don’t think people completely understand just how much of this kind of good work goes on in our communities.”
He adds, with a laugh: “Also, I can pick up some hints and tips myself…”
Amanda Quinn, manager at Heart of Scotstoun, said: “We support more than 300 people every week through our community kitchen and hear directly how the cost-of-living crisis is impacting them.
“Before, it was more about being given a hot meal but now, people are also coming along to save on their heating bills.
“We are seeing a large increase in working families using our services, whereas before it was mainly people who receive benefits.”
She added: “Coming along to events like this makes people feel wanted and helps to relieve a little bit of the financial burden they are feeling.
“We also hold activities during the day so it masks the food element for those who feel uneasy about leaning on us for support in this way.
“Our supper club is particularly good for this as people come along and cook whilst they are chatting over a cup of tea and exchange ideas and recipes which making everyone feel valued – it’s important not to take away people’s skills and self-worth.”
Galloway Cheddar has donated 1.2 tonnes of its red cheddar for use in the meals and £19,500 to FareShare Scotland as part of the initiative.