Meet a Maker is a series the Mudgee Guardian have created in conjunction with Mudgee Fine Foods to tell the story of how your local businesses began.
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Eleven years ago, Linda and Bruce Wilson sought to enter retirement and figured what better place to do so than in Mudgee?
Relocating to what was formerly their holiday home, the Wilson's planned on living the quiet life as a newly retired couple until a bottle of Linda's freshly made chilli relish found its way to the show.
"The first year we were here there was the Mudgee Agricultural Show," Linda said.
"I was making my annual batch of chilli relish from a recipe that I had inherited from Bruce's mum way back when, that we make every year.
Bruce stole one of my bottles and entered it into the show and won me the blue ribbon with it.Linda Wilson
And, that's when it all began for Linda's Chilli Relish.
Soon after, Linda, who worked as a food writer before retiring, decided to volunteer as secretary for the Mudgee Fine Foods. It was then that she decided to set up her first stall, showcasing her products made from local ingredients, including home-grown chillies.
"A whole bunch of stall holders were saying 'why are you doing this [volunteering] if you have nothing to sell? You should sell something'," Linda said.
"So we produced a bigger batch of our relish and sold it all at the Easter market in 2010 and we've been doing it ever since.
"We now go to a lot of farmers markets but we're most loyal to Mudgee, we're very well supported."
Chilli relish is somewhat of a tradition in Bruce's family with the recipe, that many have come to love, being passed down by generations.
"My grandmother used to make the original chilli relish and then mum used to make it and now Linda makes it," Bruce, the former creative director and packaging designer, said.
"Linda has kept the original recipe but added different flavours so it's just a good, old-fashioned Australian sweet chilli relish."
As demand for the product grew, so too did the batch sizes, with Linda having to alter the recipe to cater for eight times more than what was originally needed all those years ago.
"I went from a recipe that made six bottles to a recipe that can now make between 48 and 52 bottles," she said.
"Once upon a time before COVID, I was cooking two or three days a week doing at least two batches a day. We were selling every weekend at various farmers markets.
"I made a huge amount of product thinking I would be going into spring and the Christmas period but then COVID-restrictions came in.
"We are not cooking as much now but we're hoping come November and December, there will be people out there shopping for presents."
If you had asked the Wilson's how they pictured themselves 11 years into "retirement", it would not be running a business, but the support they've received from the local community is something they're forever grateful for.
"Our little business couldn't be the business it is at the moment and certainly wouldn't have grown the way it did had it not been from the support of Mudgee people," they said.
"We are definitely a Mudgee brand, in fact we advertise that on our labeling."
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