We’ve all heard the story several times that Richard Montañez was a janitor who invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. It made him a household name in the Latino community and there is even a movie being done about his story. However, Frito-Lay now says it never happened.
Frito-Lay is officially denying that Richard Montañez invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
For years, Richard Montañez told the rags-to-riches story of how he created one of the most iconic snacks in the world: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. The spicy snack has made millions of fingers red as people all over have come to love the famous treat. Yet, after years of making money off of this iconic story, the LA Times has found that it is not what it seems.
“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay wrote in a statement to The LA 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 story has left Flamin’ Hot Cheetos fans shook.
Eva Longoria recently bought the rights to Montañez’s story of creating Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and is set to direct a biopic based on the incredible moment. Now, with so much doubt on the origins of the famous snack, what is to come of this project and the upcoming memoir based on the story. Montañez did not participate in The LA Times’ story.
According to The LA Times, Fred Lindsay, a former salesman from Chicago, claims to have been the person who got Frito-Lay into the Flamin’ Hot game.
“The funny thing is, I heard maybe a year ago that some guy from California was taking credit for developing hot Cheetos, which is crazy,” Lindsay told The LA Times. “I’m not trying to take credit; I’m just trying to set the record straight.”
People are angry that The LA Times spent time investigating the origins of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Montañez responded to the claims from Frito-Lay in an article with Variety. While he is not disputing the claims, Montañez is sticking to his story without physical evidence that would support his claims. According to Montañez, he did not go through the more official channels when creating the recipe for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
“Frito-Lay had something called the method-improvement program, looking for ideas. That kind of inspired me, so I always had these ideas for different flavors and products,” Montañez told Variety. “The only difference in what I did, is I made the product, instead of just writing the idea on a piece of paper and sending it. They would forward over those products to the appropriate people and I didn’t know, because I was just a frontline worker.”
Montañez is not backing down from his claims that he did invent the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Montañez stands behind his story that he created the recipe for the spicy snack that is recognized around the world. Yet, he adds the caveat that he did not go through the proper channels, hence the lack of a paper trail.
“When we created our seasoning, it wasn’t at the plant. It was in my kitchen, in my garage. Then we sent it to headquarters,” Montañez told Variety. “When headquarters did a new product development, they sent a whole team. With me, they sent one scientist. By this time, they already had seasoning, because they’re not going to use something that made someone sick. We made 2,000 cases. We shipped it to the zones, to the warehouses where they were going to test market. By this time, they had pushed me out.”
As The LA Times story continues to circulate, people are more and more disappointed in the perceived takedown of a Latino role model.
There is a lot of anger from people in our community over the story. Montañez has been an influential and inspirational part of our community and the claims from Frito-Lay have stirred an emotional response from many Latinos on social media. Montañez told Variety that he is not concerned about Frito-Lay’s claims harming the chances of making the biopic about the creation.
I can literally talk food until my babas drip. Don’t judge. The comelón life chose me and I’m not mad at it. Because growing up Latino meant breakfast wasn’t always cereal, and dinner wasn’t always mac and cheese. I grew up con más sabor en mis platillos than most Americans. And, at the time, I didn’t even realize that many of the foods my family was trying to get me to eat were ancestral foods. From chocolate to cocoa and chia to nopalitos, I blame los ancestros for my obsession with food and all the glorious ingredients that have been passed down for generations.
My knees already feel weak, fam, because today I’m gonna be talking nopalitos. Ya me estoy chupando los dedos, thinking back to how I grew up with these babies always in the refri in that Nopalitos jar, ready to be thrown into a sauce or encima de una carne asada. It turns out this soul-feeding food is one of the OG ancestral foods that have been used by our people for thousands of years. Ahí les va un poco de historia:
The Mexica introduced the world to the “fruit of the Earth.”
In Náhuatl, the word for nopal translates to “fruit of the Earth.” I don’t know what the Náhuatl word for “bomb-delicioso” is, but in my opinion, that should also be the name for nopales. And the Aztecs must have felt this way too because one of the most famous cities in the Aztec Empire – Tenochtitlán, the empire’s religious center – was named “prickly pear on a rock.” Iconic.
According to legend, the city was built after an Azteca priest spotted an eagle perched on a nopal plant, carrying a snake in its mouth. The priest, obviously extremadamente blown away by this, ran back to his village just so he could gather everyone to check out this crazy eagle with a snake in its mouth. As they watched, the cactus beneath the eagle grew into an island – eventually becoming Tenochtitlán. I’ll give you 3 seconds to just process that. 1…2…3. Please take more time if you need it. The image of the eagle carrying a snake, its golden talons perched on a nopal growing from a rock, can now be found on the Mexican flag.
Today, we know that the Mexica were right to call nopales the plant of life.
In Mexico, it’s still common to place a handful of nopal flowers in a bath to help relax achy muscles. And nopales are becoming more popular than ever in beauty treatments to help fight aging. But, y’all are too beautiful to be needing them for that, so let’s talk about what’s important — eating them.
There are so many ways you can mix this iconic ingredient into your meals.
We should all be eating our green foods. Your tía, your abuela, your primo, everyone…except your ex. Your ex can eat basura. I said what I said. But, nopalitos are especially important. These tenacious desert plants can be eaten raw, sautéed, pickled, grilled – they’re even used as pizza toppings. Though for some people, nopales – with their spines and texture – can be intimidating. After cutting off the spines and edges, and cutting them into slices, they will bleed a clear slime. But boiling for 20 minutes will take care of that. Or make it even easier on yourself and avoid espinas by buying them all ready-to-go from the brand we all know and love, DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos.
Check it out, I’m even gonna hook it up with that good-good, because if you’re looking for ways to enjoy your nopales, I got’chu with some starter links to recipes: Hibiscus and Nopal Tacos, Nopal Tostadas, Roasted Nopales con Mole, and Lentil Soup con Nopales. One of my personal favorite ways to eat them is in a beautiful Cactus Salad, full of color and flavor. Trust. I rate these dishes 10 out of 10, guaranteed to make your babas drip, and when you eat this ensalada de nopalitos, you will remember even your ancestors were dripping babas over this waaay before it was cool to eat plant-based foods.
So let’s give the poderoso nopal the spotlight it deserves by adding it to our shopping lists more often.
Rich in history, mythology, and practical uses, the nopal’s enduring popularity is a testament to its versatility. It’s time to give this classic ingredient the respect it deserves and recognize just how chingon our ancestors are for making nopales fire before plantbase foods were even trending.
Next time you’re at the supermercado, do your ancestors proud and add nopales to your shopping cart by picking up a jar of DOÑA MARIA® Nopalitos. This easy-to-use food will definitely give you a major boost of pride in your roots. Viva los nopalitos bay-beh!