Flamin' Hot

Flamin’ Hot Proves That a Little Spicy Dust Goes a Long Way

Dept. of Spicy Success Stories


If you are anything like me, you will often find yourself ripping open a bag of potato chips (or a snack of a similar kind) while enjoying a movie or TV show. It’s become something of a subconscious habit. A Pavlovian instinct that kicks in when we click on Netflix, or Disney Plus, or whenever we’re at the cinema. What we don’t do, however, is think very much about the history of the thing that we’re putting into our mouths. But fear not, because Eva Longoria (yes, that Eva Longoria) has taken it upon herself to answer a question that a lot of us have never thought to ask. How did the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto come into being? It’s an obscure question. And the answer to it is pretty damn interesting.

During the massive economic downturn of the 1980s, the Frito-Lay company was going through a bit of a tough time. Layoffs were made, factories were shut, and the company needed a miracle to get themselves through the crisis. Enter, Richard Montañez, a janitor who was working for Frito-Lay at the time. He would come up with a brilliant idea that would revolutionize not only the company, but the snack food industry as a whole. He and his wife devised a concoction of spices to dust over Cheetos, as well as their other library of potato chips, giving birth to the popular snack Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, as well as inspiring many other spicy snacks to come after it.

But Flamin’ Hot tells more than just the story of this world changing invention. It delves deep into everything you didn’t know about the multi-billion dollar potato chip industry.

The Price of a Potato Chip

Flamin' Hot

At its core, Flamin’ Hot showcases the oppression of Mexicans in America during that time and what it was like to live while being constantly looked down upon and working twice as hard just to make it in the country. It’s a conversation that is still happening to this day, and one that a lot of immigrants can relate to. But it’s all not doom and gloom. There is also a strong message of hope and inspiration attached to it. No matter what we are faced with in our lives, we have the power to make our dreams happen for ourselves, as long as we keep fighting and never give up, or give in to those trying to tie us down and keep us oppressed.

With a tale like this, it’s a strategically important decision to cast the right type of actor for your lead role, because at the end of the day, he’s the one who needs to carry this story. Longoria found the perfect Montañez in actor Jesse Garcia. He possesses a charm that will make you instantly fall in love with him. While the movie’s upbeat nature and delightful wit are more than enough to keep you going, Garcia brings a level of charisma that allows you to connect with him and see yourself in everything he’s going through. We’ve all met a person like this in our lifetime. We may even be that person. And Garcia is a great everyman that makes Flamin’ Hot so relatable.

Fiction, Meet Truth

Flamin' Hot

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a glaring issue. This story isn’t purely factual. There are of course some creative liberties taken here that may or may not be true. You see, there are some doubts over the true authenticity of Montañez’s involvement with the infamous snack. I won’t go into too much detail here, but there was a 2021 Los Angeles Times article which set out to highlight some of the inconsistencies over Montañez’s book, A Boy, a Burrito, and a Cookie: From Janitor to Executive, that the movie is based on.

While the fact that he was an employee there at the time is entirely true, Frito-Lay had conducted an internal investigation in 2018, disproving that Montañez had any involvement with the creation of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto, and that a group of scientists had already come up with the formula back in 1989. What’s interesting to note here, is that the film, for a brief second, actually touches on the fact that a group of scientists were already trying to develop the flavor while Montañez was developing his. Despite all this, Montañez has stuck to his guns and insists that he did. While none of this takes away from the fact that this is a highly enjoyable, family friendly movie, it is nevertheless something to bear in mind as you watch this story.

The Flamin’ Hot Cockles of Your Heart

Flamin' Hot

At the end of the day, Flamin’ Hot is a movie that will warm the cockles of your heart and inspire you to chase your dreams. It is a great, feel good movie, that is highly entertaining, but lacks a little depth, and perhaps historical accuracy. But that doesn’t mean we should disregard it completely, as Montañez is still a great role model for a lot of Latin Americans and immigrants looking to change their lives for the better. No matter what the “truth” might be, this is a man who, despite having no proper education, having lived a rough childhood filled with drugs and jail-time, still managed to do the impossible and rise from being a janitor to the Director of Multicultural Marketing of a global, multi billion-dollar company. It’s proof that as long as you set your heart and mind on something, put in the time and hard work, you can achieve everything you want in this life.

Flamin’ Hot is now streaming on Disney Plus Hotstar.

Nick Dorian spent most of his childhood dreaming of being a plumber, mainly because he loved watching Super Mario go on adventures. When he heartbreakingly discovered actual plumbers don't go on great adventures in real life, he went on to sit in front of a TV or movie screen, watching more people go on adventures, and then talk to anybody around him about what he's seen, whether they liked it or not. Fast forward to today, he somehow managed to make watching movies and TV shows, and discussing them, an actual living. Which goes to show, dreams do come true. Except when you dream of being an Italian plumber who fights mushrooms and toads.

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