EDGE Interview: A Gay Hebridean Baker has the Right Ingredients for Internet Stardom

Timothy Rawles READ TIME: 6 MIN.

The Hebridean Baker
Source: Courtesy of the Hebridean Baker

Now that the holidays are over, MacLeod has begun the North American leg of his book tour to promote "The Hebridean Baker at Home," with appearances already sold out in many cities. It's clear that his popularity is enough to sell thousands of books to fans who are willing to see him in person. But it's hard to tell which of the two they are excited about the most: the flavors or the folklore. It's all been a very fast rise to the top for MacLeod, but he seems to be taking it in stride.

"What was intentional in the beginning was myself and my partner Peter wanted to share what we do," says MacLeod about his initial venture into online influencing which started as a hobby during the pandemic. "The content we created wasn't, 'Ah, let's do this because it will look great on social media,' we just showed what our lives were like."

MacLeod is publicly out, and February is LGBTQ+ history month in Scotland. Historically the country has been more progressive than some; they legalized same-sex marriage in 2014 -- a year before the United States. But that doesn't mean they don't have a homophobic past. For a small island chain in Scotland, being gay isn't so much frowned upon as it is unconsidered.

"Unintentionally, we really have impacted a lot on the LGBT community in rural Scotland because for probably one of the first times they've had somebody from the islands who has, you know, stood out and told their story," says MacLeod.

That story was so influential, that MacLeod and his fellow countryman; actor Anthony Rogers, were recently recognized for their contributions. As a social media influencer who prepares traditional Scottish cuisine from his kitchen, it was a happy broadside MacLeod wasn't prepared for.

"I've just been given the LGBT Culture Awards for Scotland, for what we've done for the community and Scotland through the arts," says MacLeod. "That's unbelievable for me, certainly to have impacted just through something as simple as bacon, but the storyline has resonated through who we are, and the support through the allied community has been fantastic."

@hebrideanbaker Marmalade Soufflé #hebrideanbaker #fyp #recipe #baker #marmalade #souffle ♬ The Ogham Stone - Michael McGoldrick

The Hebridean Baker
Source: Courtesy of the Hebridean Baker

That support reaches well beyond his homeland, especially into a country over 3,000 miles away. It might not be fair to evaluate the ancient untouched beauty of the Hebrides to a place as over-developed as the United States, but the intrepid MacLeod says America is filled with incredible natural beauty and there are places he has yet to explore. Scenery aside, the Scotsman says he is more charmed by its population.

"For me, it's a hundred percent the people," his voice lifts a bit with excitement. "I have been so lucky to have made the most wonderful friends, and that has actually come from visiting Provincetown for the past seven or eight years and it's quite interesting. I'll maybe go into a gay bar in Scotland, and I wouldn't know anybody. But then I'll go into a gay bar in, I don't know, Fort Lauderdale or Minneapolis, and someone will go, 'Haven't I seen you in Provincetown?' And that is kind of unbelievable for me. So I have the most wonderful network of friends."

He goes on to say that he is bolstered by support from people from the American Scottish and Hebridean communities too. "They come from miles and hours away, just to hear the Hebridean voice." He and his partner Peter also sing traditional Gaelic songs on the tours, "so it's a real cultural night but in a very fun, fun way."

Sadly, someone will be missing from the book tour festivities this year: his faithful West Highland Terrier named Seoras who passed in December and was just as much of a TikTok celebrity as MacLeod.

"He was the most famous dog in Scotland and after his passing," he says. "I had people like the Hollywood actress Ginnifer Goodwin, Dominic Monaghan, and Billy Boyd, from 'Lord of the Rings,' --- all these amazing people messaging me --- saying 'I was heartbroken to hear about Seoras,' and I'm like, how did Seoras touch so many lives?"

@hebrideanbaker Seòras! #hebrideanbaker ♬ Aw Naw - Chris Young

Past TikTok cameos and television appearances will ensure Seoras' life won't be forgotten. He was an important part of the Hebridean Baker's success which continues to grow with local collaborations and partnerships. He says it is important that any companies he affiliates with are representative of Scotland. That rule includes making his signature jumpers.

He often gets asked if it's hard to find new recipes to write about, but he admits it's harder to find new sweaters, "I feel like an unintentional fashion diva because people talk about my knitwear so much. You might have heard the term Fair Isle. It is a style of knitwear and it's from one of the other Scottish islands. I now have an official knitwear partner, and I'm really lucky that I get sent a lot of lovely knitwear to wear."

Whether it is one view or millions, The Hebridean Baker isn't complaining. Every one of his fans is important to him and he is grateful, if not surprised, that the feeling is reciprocated. With another book ready to hit the shelves next year, it would appear that he is cashing in on his newfound fame. But according to him, the worth of what he does isn't calculated in terms of cash.

"Honestly, I open my e-mail every morning and the opportunities and invitations I get because of what I've done are just fantastic and they always make me smile," he says. "So luckily if I get paid a dollar or better, that's definitely not the priority for me in this."

"The Hebridean Baker at Home" North American book tour happens now through February 29. Check out the website for further details.

by Timothy Rawles

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