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Is Flamin’ Hot a True Story?


Hulu’s new comedy movie “Flamin’ Hot” payments itself because the story behind the invention of one of the recognizable snacks on this planet: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. At first look, it has all of the hallmarks of a “based on a true story” story: a quirky concept that results in an unlikely, made-for-the-movies rise from obscurity and a charismatic and decided hero on the middle of all of it. In actuality, although, there’s much less reality to the film than you may anticipate.

Who Is Richard Montañez?

“Flamin’ Hot” is predicated on a memoir, “A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive,” by Richard Montañez. Montañez grew up in a working-class Mexican-American household in California, and he dropped out of faculty to work. He was finally employed as a janitor at Frito-Lay, which is the place his story supposedly actually begins.

In his ebook, Montañez describes how an obvious machine error led him to create an iconic snack. According to his model of occasions, a machine broke down within the Cheetos line, leading to a batch not getting dusted with the signature orange tacky powder. Montañez writes that he took the “plain” Cheetos residence and dusted them with chili powder as an alternative, impressed by a road vendor in his neighborhood who offered Mexican road corn with lime and chili powder.

When his family and friends appreciated the style of the brand new product, Montañez got down to pitch it to the CEO of Frito-Lay, Roger Enrico. Around that point, Enrico had despatched out a video “telling all employees he wanted them to take ownership of the company,” in response to CNBC, and Montañez writes, “I called him up, not knowing you weren’t supposed to call the CEO.” Securing a assembly, Montañez pitched the product, and the remaining was supposedly historical past. Flamin’ Hot Cheetos grew to become a phenomenon, and Montañez climbed the company ladder, finally touchdown an govt place at PepsiCo and constructing a profession as a speaker off of his rags-to-riches story.

In 2018, Fox Searchlight introduced they’d be producing a film based mostly on his life story. It appeared just like the American Dream.

Or, not less than, till a few years in the past.

Did Richard Montañez Invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?

In 2021, the Los Angeles Times revealed an investigative report that appeared to debunk Montañez’s claims.

“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay wrote in a assertion to The Times, revealed as a part of the in-depth investigation. “We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market.. . . We value Richard’s many contributions to our company, especially his insights into Hispanic consumers, but we do not credit the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos or any Flamin’ Hot products to him.”

According to the Times article, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos had been developed in 1989 via a pretty mundane course of, born out of the necessity to compete with different manufacturers that provided spicy snacks. Montañez did begin on the firm as a janitor, and he did pitch product concepts and finally ascended to a director-level position in advertising and marketing, however an inside Frito-Lay investigation, in addition to the accounts of many related staff across the identical time, revealed that Montañez’s story of inventing Flamin’ Hot Cheetos was not correct. In reality, the “spicy snacks” challenge was first assigned to Lynne Greenfeld, a junior worker and new MBA grad who labored with a number of others to develop the merchandise.

When the information broke in 2021, properly after the “Flamin’ Hot” film was in manufacturing, the film’s inventive staff insisted that it was nonetheless a story price telling.

“Did Richard embellish a little bit? Was his memory faulty here or there? Who knows,” screenwriter Lewis Colick informed Variety. “The truth is the product.. . . I think enough of the story is true. The heart and soul and spirit of the story is true. He is a guy who should remain the face of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”

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