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"Flamin' Hot" Claims to Be Based on a True Story, but It's More Complicated


Flamin’ Hot was marketed as the true story of Richard Montañez, the supposed creator of the Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. But is it really true? Here’s the deal.
Hulu’s new comedy film “Flamin’ Hot” bills itself as the story behind the invention of one of the most recognizable snacks in the world: Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. At first glance, it has all the hallmarks of a “based on a true story” tale: a quirky idea that leads to an unlikely, made-for-the-movies rise from obscurity and a charismatic and determined hero at the center of it all. In reality, though, there’s less truth to the movie than you might expect.
“Flamin’ Hot” is based on a memoir, “A Boy, a Burrito and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive,” by Richard Montañez. Montañez grew up in a working-class Mexican-American family in California, and he dropped out of school to work. He was eventually hired as a janitor at Frito-Lay, which is where his story supposedly really begins.
In his book, Montañez describes how an apparent machine error led him to create an iconic snack. According to his version of events, a machine broke down in the Cheetos line, resulting in a batch not getting dusted with the signature orange cheesy powder. Montañez writes that he took the “plain” Cheetos home and dusted them with chili powder instead, inspired by a street vendor in his neighborhood who sold Mexican street corn with lime and chili powder.

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