Project brings sunshine to Fife’s food scene

Patrick cooking ahead of the farmers market in St Andrews.
Patrick cooking ahead of the farmers market in St Andrews.

For the last year, a new kitchen project has been bringing a little sunshine to food events and markets across north east Fife.

The Sunshine Kitchen was launched in April 2018, giving young adults with additional support needs the chance to meet new friends and learn new skills. The nine cooks, along with volunteers, make soups, preserves, quiches and more, using locally-sourced produce.

Cooks Patrick Steffen, Innis Carnegie, Iona McFadzean and Rosa Doran, who provides kitchen support.

Cooks Patrick Steffen, Innis Carnegie, Iona McFadzean and Rosa Doran, who provides kitchen support.

Since then, the group have appeared at Fife Farmers Markets in Cupar and St Andrews, Bowhouse, and more, and have even ventured into catering. They catered for 200 people at a sports council dinner and 100 folk at an anniversary celebration.

But how did the Sunshine Kitchen, based out of a disused cafe at the Elmwood Campus, become a familiar face at food events in Fife?

Gayle Nelson started running the project for her 19-year-old son, who has autism, and two of his friends.

“The aim was to create a supportive working environment for these young people,” explained Gayle.

“We would like our children, and their friends, to transition out of education and have something meaningful to do in their lives, to feel a sense of pride and enjoyment in that. Like anyone who enjoys their job.”

While the Sunshine Kitchen has earned itself a strong reputation since it started, even winning the Community Enterprise Award at the Scottish Commission for Learning Disability 2019 Awards, Gayle has big plans for the future of the project.

She hopes the charity can continue to grow to the stage where the income it generates can sustain it, without the need for donations.

“There is supported employment out there, and there is opportunities for young people to do things,” Gayle explained.

“But, what we found, is that a lot of it is half a day per week.

“What we would like the young people to do is to have a job that fills a big chunk of their week, three full days or something like that.

“We hope the kitchen eventually will be a going concern, that has staff running sessions during the week, that supplies more cafes and restaurants, that runs a delivery service, that eventually runs a cafe of its own, continues to do more markets and food events in the area. There’s a huge amount of scope.”

For more information about the project, visit the Sunshine Kitchen website and Facebook page.

The Sunshine Kitchen project supported three people with additional support needs when it started in 2018.

Now the project has nine members, not including the volunteers who provide guidance and help run the group.

Iona McFadzean (21) joined the group last year and said she was “happy to be here”.

She added: “I know Gayle from Fife College. She told me all about the cafe and I decided to ask my mum if I could join. She said I could so I joined.

“I joined to meet new friends and make new pals. I enjoy the cooking side. I’m more confident.”

Iona has now started a new course at the Elmwood Campus – where the project is based – learning land-based skills.

Innis Carnegie also joined the group last year.

He explained that one of the main reasons he joined the Sunshine Kitchen was to meet new people and make friends.

“I’ve enjoyed it so far,” said Innis. “I help with doing the soups and the cheesecakes. I like meeting new people and pals. I enjoy being in the kitchen.”

Patrick Steffen, who has been involved with the Sunshine Kitchen since it launched, enjoys preparing the vegetables, such as cutting up the broccoli and mushrooms for the group’s popular quiches.

Patrick also enjoys going to the food markets and the success of the project – he even got to go on stage in his best suit when the group won the Community Enterprise Award earlier this year.