A furloughed painter and decorator from St Andrews who has become an online celebrity whilst baking for local key workers during the coronavirus lockdown has expressed “disappointment and disgust” after complaints were made about the cleanliness of his operation.
Former Langlands Primary and Madras College pupil Graeme Cunningham, who is known to his friends as ‘Beef’, decided to set up “Beef’s Bakery” on Facebook “for a laugh” after being furloughed from St Andrews Links Trust.
The Courier told previously how the 47-year-old has been baking cakes, tray bakes, scones and much more in his kitchen, and then giving out his treats to key workers and people in the area.
However, Graeme said he was contacted by Fife Council on Monday following anonymous complaints about “hygiene” in his videos.
Video of Graeme talking about the complaints is above this article
Graeme told The Courier: “I had a guy on the phone from Fife Council – very nice and understanding – saying they’ve had some complaints about the mess of my work tops, the fact I don’t wear anything on my feet and someone noticed my dogs medicine near the cakes.
“He did ask me to register and do a wee course but the time I do all that I’ll be back at work. He just had to follow up the complaints.
“I total get what the guy was saying and as I said even he was very surprised what people these days complain about, but he’s only doing his job.
“I’m just more disappointed and disgusted that some people would complain about what I’m doing. It was good while it lasted.”
Graeme started baking on March 25, producing around 100 treats a week and has produced videos twice a week, encouraging others to get involved.
He asked everyone who took part to give the baking away to a key worker and then nominate another five people.
His biggest helper has been Helen Nicoll, a chef at St Andrews Links Trust, and a few others.
His efforts have been viewed on social media thousands of times with interest coming from far and wide.
NHS staff at St Andrews hospital, local firefighters, Gibson House and pensioners are among the people to have benefited from the amateur bakery.
However, as Graeme took to social media on Monday to inform his supporters that he accepted Fife Council’s position and would stop his videos – but continue baking for fun – many of his supporters expressed frustration.
Family friend Diane McDonagh, 51, told The Courier: “I just think if you compare it to something like baking for a coffee morning, he’s not making money out of it so what’s the harm? I think it’s a real shame.”
Asked to clarify Fife Council’s position by The Courier, Lisa McCann, Service Manager – Environmental Health (Food & Workplace Safety) – said in a statement: “This was a routine call that we’d do with any food business. We carry out these checks to make sure the business itself has the correct information and is aware of the different rules and regulations when it comes to food safety, allergens and at this time social physical & distancing measures etc.
“We recognise that Mr Cunningham is doing this for a good cause and is donating his cakes and traybakes to key workers. Given these products are considered ‘low risk’, we asked him to register his business with us so that he’s in line with the law. We advised Mr Cunningham that this only takes a few minutes and is free.
“We’re really disappointed that Mr Cunningham has taken to social media to share his displeasure about our contact with him as he didn’t discuss any of this with our officer.”