Bruce Young spent 24 years teaching drama at Burford School, but now he is devoting himself to a new career that really cuts the mustard. He has turned his hobby - making mustard - into a business, called Shaken Oak.

He retired from teaching two years ago and his performing skills are now put to use at local food fairs, exhibitions and taste tests.

Instead of teaching teenagers, he now educates customers of local delicatessens, garden centres and farm shops about the importance of real food', stimulating their tastebuds with his mustard samples.

His interest in mustard started when he went to France as a student.

"I was brought up on traditional English mustard, and it made me choke - there were lots of fumes," he explained.

"Then I went to France on holiday, and I thought: Why don't we do something like this in England?'."

He started making mustard for friends and family, and soon started a cottage industry in his spare time, visiting local pubs and shops to persuade them to stock his products. He has benefited from the rising interest in real food' and the growth of farm shops and delicatessens.

"When I started Shaken Oak 12 years ago, there were 20 or 30 companies in the country making mustard. Now there are more than 60, mostly small companies making it by hand, like me."

His only previous experience of the food industry had been working in restaurants to pay for his drama studies, but he now has 70 outlets.

He even made it into Harrods food hall during The Best of British' event and won a gold for his honey mustard at The Great Taste Awards, organised by The Guild of Fine Food Retailers.

His most recent contract is for beer mustard, to be sold by Chiltern Brewery at Aylesbury.

He said: "I am passionate about food, and I enjoy working with people who are passionate about food. It's a different game that most food producers play. It's a long educational process, to teach people to eat local and eat better food."

He makes mustards and preserves the hard way - by hand, spending hours in his specially designed kitchen-cum-production area, mixing, stirring, boiling, straining and mashing together various ingredients.

The company name comes from his farm in Hailey, near Witney, which dates back to the 15th century.

In 1994, he moved from the farmhouse kitchen to a purpose-built unit in an adjoining barn, and four years ago he added a further extension to the Mustard House'.

His products - which include Oxford Mustard, created to celebrate the county's Millennium - were mentioned in Henrietta Green's Food Lovers' Guide to Britain (BBC Books), Great British Food by Heather Hay Ffrench (Quiller Press), and in The Savvy Shopper by Rose Prince, published last year by Fourth Estate, as well as in the 2006 and 2007 editions of Les Routiers.

When he stopped teaching two years ago and started working full-time on the business, his success started to cause bottlenecks, and he found it difficult to take breaks.

Production He sought advice from the Manufacturing Advisory Service. Chris Needham of MAS South East, passed on a few useful ideas on how he could improve the flow of the production process.

Mr Young said: "They advised me how to structure the production so that I could have breaks.

"One of the problems is that it's all made by hand and it's time-consuming and labour-intensive. If I didn't have Radio 3 or Radio Oxford in the background, sometimes I would go mad."

The MAS consultant confirmed what Mr Young had already suspected - that he cannot benefit from grants available to small producers in other areas.

"I have a friend in Cornwall who has had grants, but the Thames Valley is too affluent. MAS did point me at how to lease machinery, but it works out too expensive.

"They gave me verbal help and support, which is important when you are by yourself. To bounce ideas around and have people you can talk to and who can understand your issues is useful.

"Our turnover is small - £25,000 a year - and we couldn't afford an £8,000 machine.

"On the other side, I enjoy what I am doing. Every book I have been mentioned in, and the awards that I have won, convince me that I am doing something that's appreciated.

"Will I make a fortune? Never. It's not always about money. I am in profit, but I also help people. I am making something that people enjoy.

"I have to do all my own PR, bookwork, selling, marketing, promotion, manufacturing and production. Being a drama specialist, I don't mind being a jack-of-all-trades."

Now, at 59, he has absolutely no regrets about his midlife career change.

"It's a different kind of stress from being in front of kids, but there are still stresses. They're different stresses, that's all," he said.

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