Frank Mulligan's involvement with playing cards and "Hot Sauces" comes from a lifelong love of spicy foods. Sporting a stainless steel digestion system, he eats Hot Sauce on just about everything, and has a formidable collection of about 1500 different hot sauces from around the world. It occurred to him over a chilled bottle of Napa Valley Chardonnay one day to use his skills as a photographer and designer to combine a love of fiery condiments with something also fun and practical. He developed "Hot Sauce Playing Cards" as both a marketing tool for the makers of the products, and as a useful and fun novelty.
The premise of the cards is essentially that people will not throw away a good deck of cards as they will simply ignore and discard other forms of advertising. In fact, fellow lovers of hot and spicy foods will not only read the manufacturers' advertising message on the cards, but will pay to do it by buying the deck to play with!
He started the series, called the "Collector's Series Decks" with a deck consisting of Hot Sauces ("Sauces From Everywhere") from around the world. Each card describes the product and carries a map of where it comes from, a common theme throughout the decks. Producing full color decks of playing cards is a very expensive proposition indeed, and he quickly found that it is not an easy sale to the participants in the deck. Most of the products represented on the decks are produced by "mom and pop" chefs who do it as a side business apart from their regular job, and few of them have much of a sense of the necessity of advertising their wares. Thus, it takes about a year to get a deck to the public and requires a terrific investment in industry-wide advertising, trade show displaying and endless hours of phone selling. Fortunately, the playing cards are quite popular and sell well.
The second deck in the series is called "Chile Chuckles" and contains not just Hot Sauces, but marinades, dry spices, confections, and hot salsas. As an additional gimmick to make the cards even more fun, this deck includes a "Chilehead One-Liner" gag on each card. Each joke starts with the line "You know you're a chilehead if.." and ends with an absurd punchline, such as "
the Atomic Energy Commission is monitoring your barbecues!" The deck was released in July of 1999.
The third deck in the series, "Let's Barbecue!" is composed entirely of award-winning barbecue products. The cards list all the awards the products have won, where they're made, and many have recipe hints and suggestions. The first run of this deck was released on March 5, 2000.
The final deck in the series is called "The Winner's Circle", and contains both Fiery Food and BBQ products that have won industry recognized awards for quality. Only winners with certified credentials qualify for the deck and it will be marketed as "a hand-held catalog" of the very, very best in the condiments industry. The deck will be on the market by late summer 2000.
All of these unique playing card decks can be seen and purchased at Firefood Specialties, Ltd.
Frank currently lives and works in San Diego, California, and is working on a special deck called "The Hot Nasties", with some of the funniest and raunchiest Hot Sauce names and descriptions to ever grace the shelves of sauce shops. It'll be for mature audiences only.