A crisp celebrity has been branded a liar for claiming to invent Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, while working as a janitor.
Mexican-American Montañez claims he pitched the a spicy Cheetos flavour to then-CEO Roger Enrico who later launched Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to the world.
According to The Los Angeles Times however, former colleagues and executives at the food company have cast doubts over Montañez’s version of events in the 1990s.
Lynne Greenfeld, said that she was put in charge of developing the brand and came up with the Flamin’ Hot name and product idea, Daily Mail reports.
She 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.”
Montañez has not commented on claims that refute the level of his involvement in the Flamin’ Hot taste, having worked for the brand since 1976.
His story is that he was employed as a janitor when he called the chief executive about his idea for Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.
Frito-Lay says records show Montañez had been promoted to machinist operator in October 1977 before the new flavour was invented.
Greenfeld’s job when she joined the company in 1989, was to come up with a spicy snack to rival those selling well in the US mid West.
Six of the former employees cite inspiration coming from the corner stores of Chicago and Detroit as opposed to Montañez’s California base.
Fred Lindsay, a salesman for the Chicago region, told The LA Times: “The funny thing is, I heard maybe a year ago that some guy from California was taking credit for developing hot Cheetos, which is crazy.
“I’m not trying to take credit; I’m just trying to set the record straight.”
Test versions of Flamin’ Hot had already been launched in Chicago, Detroit and Houston by August 1990 before the product’s nationwide release in early 1992.
Montañez says a motivational video from Roger Enrico, the CEO of the company, that encouraged all Frito-Lay workers to “act like owners”, inspired him to put in a call.
But Enrico only started at the company at the beginning of 1991 when the product had already been invented, and tested.
Montañez claims that Enrico flew out to Rancho Cucamonga, California, weeks later to witness his pitch in person following their phone call.
Enrico died in June 2016, aged 71, in a snorkelling accident in the Cayman Islands.
Al Carey, the only senior executive to back Montañez as inventor, said: “Of course stories grow, and the longer we get away from the date the stories evolve.
“I’ll bet Richard’s added a little flavor to it.
“The product that we know today as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos was definitely not out in the market’ before his meeting with Montañez, Carey said.
‘That product was developed by those guys in the plant.’
Former Cheetos product manager, Ken Lukaska said: “If that story existed, believe me, we would have heard about it.
‘This guy should run for office if he’s that good at fooling everyone.”
By email@example.com (Charles Wade-Palmer)