Hulu Film Highlights Former Janitor’s Rise to the Top

June 1, 2023

The story of a man’s rise from gang member to janitor to corporate executive is scheduled to stream on Hulu beginning June 9, Variety reports.

Flamin’ Hot, a film directed by Eva Longoria and produced by DeVon Franklin, tells the tale of Mexican immigrant and former gang member Richard Montañez. According to the film’s trailer and his published memoir, Montañez used his drive and determination to work his way up from a janitor’s job at snack manufacturer Frito-Lay to becoming a marketing executive for the company. Specifically, Montañez claims that his idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos® helped him springboard to one of Frito-Lay’s top positions.

While there’s no doubt that Montañez achieved greatness at Frito-Lay, a question still remains: Did Montañez really come up with the Flamin’ Hot flavor for Cheetos? According to The Los Angeles Times, the answer is no.

While Montañez has made this claim repeatedly via numerous speaking engagements, Frito-Lay itself denies its validity, The Times reports.

“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market,” Frito-Lay said in a statement to The Times in 2021. “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.”

“That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Richard,” the statement continued, “but the facts do not support the urban legend.”

In an interview with ABC News, Montañez, who worked for Frito-Lay for 42 years, stood by his claim that he came up with the flavor, pointing out that he wasn’t aware at that time, as a janitor, what might have been happening in other parts of the company.

“You have to understand my position,” Montañez told ABC. “I was still on the clock. I wasn’t a manager. I wasn’t an executive. Nobody told me to go do this. Nobody said, ‘This is your assignment, this is your job.’ I just took this as the CEO’s empowered statement to act like an owner. So, everything I did, I did it in my kitchen.”

“And I have to remind people, the people who were speaking against the story, they weren’t in the kitchen with me,” he continued, “and I cannot and I will not ever allow anyone to dictate to me what I did or what I didn’t do.”

Despite the lack of evidence for Montañez’s side of the story, the movie’s screenwriter, Lewis Colick, defended the decision to create the film. “The heart and soul and spirit of the story is true,” Colick told Variety. “[Montañez] is a guy who should remain the face of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.”

“I really believe that my book and my story… It’s the American dream,” Montañez said to ABC. “I’m an American. I love this country. I think there’s opportunity for everyone.”

The film stars Jesse Garcia in the leading role as Montañez, as well as Annie Gonzales, Dennis Haysbert, Tony Shalhoub, Matt Walsh, and Emilio Rivera.

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