The Times podcast: Who Really Created Flamin’ Hot Cheetos?

Bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, in all their redder-than-red, finger-staining glory.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

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A junk food snack may not seem like a big deal, especially in this current world. But the story of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos — a gnarled, messy, crunchy, bright-red corn puff that debuted in the early 1990s — and its creation has long been told as an inspirational fable from classrooms to boardrooms because of one man: Richard Montañez.


His tale was irresistible: he was a former janitor at a Frito-Lay plant who became a high-ranking executive. That is all true. But he credited his rise to his creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Now, an L.A. Times investigation has cast doubts on those claims, and the internet is, well, aflame. We get some insight into the matter from Times business reporter Sam Dean and our very own senior podcast producer Denise Guerra.

Host: Gustavo Arellano
Guests: L.A. Times business reporter Sam Dean and L.A. Times senior podcast producer Denise Guerra.

More reading:
The man who didn’t invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos
What the anger over Flamin’ Hot Cheetos origin story is really about
Flamin’ Hot Cheetos are coming to the big screen

About The Times

“The Times” is made by columnist Gustavo Arellano, producer Shannon Lin, senior producers Steven Cuevas and Denise Guerra, executive producer Abbie Fentress Swanson and editor Julia Turner. Our engineer is Mario Diaz and our theme song was composed by Andrew Eapen.