Richard Montañez: Where is Self-Proclaimed Inventor of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Now?

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Hulu’s ‘Flamin’ Hot’ tells the inspirational story of Richard Montañez, who turned his life around when he invented a new flavor of Cheetos. The film begins in Montañez’s early years and his struggle to get a job and provide for his family. Despite all the obstacles in his path, he keeps working hard and lands a job at Frito-Lay one day. Years later, after trudging away at the job and hoping to move beyond his position as a janitor, Montañez decides to take a chance and share his idea with the company’s CEO.

Who is Richard Montañez?

Richard Montañez was born to a Mexican-American family in Ontario, California. He spent his childhood in Guasti, where his family worked in a vineyard, picking grapes for a living. In his memoir, Montañez revealed that he dropped out of school in fourth or sixth grade. However, he is listed as a freshman in the Chaffey High yearbook of 1972, which means he made it, at least, to the ninth grade.

Montañez got a job at Frito-Lay in the late 1970s. He started working at the plant in Rancho Cucamonga as a janitor but soon moved beyond that and rose in the company’s ranks. According to the company’s records, Montañez was promoted to Machinist Operator by October 1977. Around the same time, he claims he pitched the idea of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. While a dispute has been raised against his claim, it doesn’t erase the fact that Montañez dedicated himself to the job and proved that he was capable of much more. In his new role at the company, he “spearheaded a program to reduce waste along the assembly line.”

In December 1993, Montañez was featured in The U.S. News and World Report article, which states that “after listening to salesmen, he developed a new ethnic-food concept aimed at the Hispanic market.” He worked on developing products to tap into the Los Angeles Latino market. Montañez created the Sabrositas line, which featured Flamin’ Hot Fritos, Lime and Chile Corn Chips, Flamin’ Hot Popcorn, and Doritos described as “buñuelito-style tortilla chips.” His initiatives led him to climb the corporate ladder quickly. In 1998, Montañez was promoted to quality-control tech services specialist. He served in this position till 2002, following which he was promoted to a director-level position, which received several awards and accolades for his work.

Richard Montañez is Actively Involved in Community Work Today

Richard Montañez lives in California with his wife, Judy. They have three children together. He retired from PepsiCo after working there for 42 years in March 2019. Since then, Montañez has spent his time working as a motivational speaker. He is highly active on social media and has a massive following on Instagram and TikTok. Montañez has delivered keynotes at organizations like Prudential Financial, Indeed, Genesys, and the Philadelphia Eagles. He was also a speaker at the annual conference of the National Pest Management Association in 2019.

Montañez has also delivered speeches at USC, Harvard, Slalom, Target, and Walmart. He has appeared in ‘Good Morning America’ and featured in The Washington Post, Fortune, and Vanity Fair. Moreover, Montañez has published two books about his story, including ‘A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive,’ published in 2013, which is the inspiration for ‘Flamin’ Hot.’ His second book, ‘Flamin’ Hot: The Incredible True Story of One Man’s Rise from Janitor to Top Executive,’ came out in 2021.

Apart from this, Montañez has founded Onelite Outreach, a non-profit organization that “reaches out to lower-income neighborhoods to bring hope and provides families with goods and services such as food, clothing, shoes” by partnering with “local churches, community organizations, and businesses to collect resources and distribute them at no cost to the community.”

As for the controversy surrounding his claims of inventing the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos brand, Montañez said: “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 [them] 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.” He added that the discrepancies in his story regarding the timeline and who the idea was pitched to could be due to the lack of documentation at the time.

No matter what is being said about him and whoever takes the credit for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, Montañez is focused on spreading positivity and encouragement to people. Be it in his speeches, memoirs, or social media posts, he always motivates people to take the initiative and break out of their shells. In his memoir, he wrote: “Don’t take your position for granted, regardless of what that position may be. CEO or janitor, act like you own the company.”

Read More: Is Flamin’ Hot Based on a True Story?