Hulu’s ‘Flamin’ Hot’ is the rags-to-riches story of Richard Montañez, who rises the corporate ladder from working as a janitor at Frito Bay to becoming a top executive in the company. The movie focuses on his hard work, determination against all odds, and the support he receives from his wife, Judy, who always encourages him to do better. The path to success is full of many hurdles for Montañez, but he conquers it all.
One of the things that ‘Flamin’ Hot’ focuses on is the invention of the titular Cheetos brand. In the late 2000s, Richard Montañez claimed his role as its inventor. This is a big part of his success story, which he has told and retold over the years in his books and public speeches. However, another person, Lynne Greenfeld, claimed that Montañez didn’t play any role in the creation of Flamin’ Hot. Here’s what you should know about her.
Where is Lynne Greenfeld Now?
Lynne Greenfeld is a former employee of Frito Lay who disputed Richard Montañez’s claim as the inventor of Flamin’ Hot in 2018. In her 60s, she goes by Lynne Lemmel since she got married and lives in Flower Mound, Texas. She is not a public figure and has enjoyed her privacy, which leaves little or no information about her personal and professional life online. Her name came to attention when The LA Times published an article detailing the dispute in 2021.
According to Montañez, he came up with the idea of Flamin’ Hot and took it directly to the company’s CEO, Roger Enrico. An internal investigation by Frito Lay, following Greenfeld’s complaint, paints a different picture. Reportedly, Sharon Owens, who worked as a product manager then, recalls assigning the project of creating a new brand to compete in the cut-throat snacks market to Lynne Greenfeld.
Greenfeld got her business degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and had recently joined the company in the summer of 1989. She was in charge of “a team of hotshot snack food professionals” in Plano, Texas. Greenfeld, who claims she came up with the name Flamin’ Hots, toured Chicago, Detroit, and Houston stores to understand what the people wanted and what Frito Lay was up against. With her team, she developed the flavor and design of the bags.
In 2018, she saw a story about Richard Montañez on Esquire, where he talked about his version of the story. She contacted an acquaintance in Frito Lay who alerted the legal department about Montañez’s story. This led to an internal investigation which led Frito Lay to make the statement disputing Montañez’s claims. They said: “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.”
Talking about Montañez taking credit for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos all these years, Greenfeld said: “It is disappointing that 20 years later, someone who played no role in this project would begin to claim our experience as his own and then personally profit from it.” In April 2019, she wrote down her version of the story, which Frito Lay forwarded to Franklin Entertainment, the production company behind ‘Flamin’ Hot.’ It should be noted that Frito Lay’s internal investigation “came to an effective dead end” and didn’t reveal anything conclusive about Flamin’ Hot Cheetos’ inventor.
As for Montañez, he has stuck to his version of the events. He said he had never heard of Greenfeld before she raised the dispute, noting that they had worked for different divisions in the company. “In that era, Frito-Lay had five divisions. 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.”