Flamin' Hot Cheetos: Richard Montanez Responds to Frito-Lay's Invention Claims

It appears there may be a storm brewing in snack land. Hours after a fiery Los Angeles Times piece surfaced online questioning the validity of Richard Montañez's claims he invented Flamin' Hot Cheetos, the former Frito-Lay employee has now offered his response. According to Montañez, the worker-turned-motivational speaker was one of the snackmaker's "greatest ambassadors" before tossing a bit of shade over the way to Frito-Lay.

"I was their greatest ambassador," Montañez told Variety Sunday afternoon. "But I will say this, you're going to love your company more than they will ever love you, keep that in perspective."

Montañez says he's not aware of what any other Frito-Lay divisions were working on Flamin' Hot Cheetos in the late 1980s, and he still insists he came up with the seasoning used on the snacks in his kitchen at home.

“In that era, Frito-Lay had five divisions,” Montañez tells the Hollywood trade. “I don’t know what the other parts of the country, the other divisions — I don’t know what they were doing. I’m not even going to try to dispute that lady, because I don’t know. All I can tell you is what I did. All I have is my history, what I did in my kitchen.”

Flamin' Hot Cheetos and Montañez have long been associated with one another, because of the general acceptance the latter was the one to invent the treat. As the story goes, Montañez concocted a spicy seasoning to coat Cheetos that accidentally missed their seasoning batch at the factory. After a few successful meetings, Frito-Lay officially adopted Flamin' Hot Cheetos, released them to the masses, and the rest is history.

Frito-Lay, however, says there's no evidence to support Montañez's claims that he was the one to invent the snack.

“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” the chip-maker tells the Times. “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."

The company's statement adds, "That doesn't mean we don't celebrate Richard, but the facts do not support the urban legend."

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The subject is in the news again because Montañez has a memoir on the way, in addition to a film adaptation of his life. Eva Longoria is currently developing a feature for Disney's Searchlight Pictures about Montañez's rise from janitor to an executive-level position.

Cover photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images for Los Angeles Times