Note: This story has been updated to include new information as to the veracity of Richard Montañez’s claim.
If the existence of Eva Longoria’s forthcoming movie about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos seemed too good to be true, that’s because it might be. A new piece by The Los Angeles Times spills what may be cold water on a story that was already considered an urban legend, in which a janitor was the one who hatched the new, popular, outside-the-box flavor for the popular cheese snack. But that’s all it is: an urban legend, at least according to parent company Frito-Lay.
The story involves one Richard Montañez, who was hired as a teenager by the snack company as a member of their cleaning staff. He wound up rising the ranks, becoming vice president of multicultural sales and community promotions for PepsiCo. That much is true. What may not be true is Montañez’s claim that he came up with the idea for the Flamin’ Hot flavor by adding spices reminiscent of Mexican seasoning, which they could sell to the Latinx community. That flavor first hit the market in 1992.
But, the L.A. Times claims, there’s no record of this claim. “None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” a spokesperson for Frito-Lay told the publication.. “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.” They do allege that Montañez started claiming he invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos when he became a motivational speaker.
After the Times’ story broke, a journalist with NPR’s podcast Planet Money came forth with new, more nuanced information from Frito-Lay, who told her they “did not directly deny Montañez’s involvement in creating Hot Cheetos,” even suggesting “that two independent teams could have worked separately to create the product.” They even acknowledged that he was “a part of it,” though they also acknowledged the existence of “a Richard Montañez product” that may have turned into Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Despite multiple direct questions and invitations to do so, Frito-Lay did not directly deny Montañez’s involvement in creating Hot Cheetos. However, they did suggest that two independent teams could have worked separately to create the product. I mention this in the piece. 2/14
— Sarah Aida Gonzalez (@GonzalezSarahA) May 17, 2021
So where does the truth lie? Perhaps we’ll find out before the movie comes out.
(Via The Los Angeles Times)