‘Flamin’ Hot’ Ending, Explained: Is It Based On A True Story? What Happens To Richard Montanez?


Flamin’ Hot, directed by Eva Longoria, is based on the real-life of Richard Montanez, who has been credited as the creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and for additionally introducing an entire line of spicy snacks to the market. The writers, Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chavez keep the narrative light and humorous, though they do not miss the opportunity to dramatize it and fill it with emotions as and when the need arises. Jesse Garcia plays the protagonist, Richard Montanez, and his energy is vivacious, and he pulls off the part in quite a decent fashion.

Spoilers Alert

Is It Based On A True Story?

Flamin’ Hot is the perfect underdog story that would make you feel inspired, and you won’t get disappointed after watching it, to say the least. But the controversies surrounding the claims made by Montanez become a killjoy, and it feels like somebody raised your hopes and then suddenly told you that he was just bluffing all along and that the words of motivation that you were leaning on were part of a big lie. In the year 2021, a few ex-workers of PepsiCo and Frito-Lay came forward and said that Richard Montanez was not the creator of Flamin’ Hot, and something made him believe that he could take the credit without anybody noticing it and commit such a big fraud.

Flamin’ Hot was made after the claims surfaced in the media, but it steers clear of all the controversies and portrays Richard’s story as a classic example of the American dream. We don’t want to jump to conclusions because that is not our place, but I personally believe that there is no smoke without fire. No one would like to believe that Richard is not the hero, as shown in the film, as it inspires us and gives us so much hope, but then in a way we would be undermining the efforts put in by the real creators if the allegations prove to be true in the future. Although the makers say that it is the true story of a legend who revolutionized the snacks market, if the allegations are proved to be true then the makers would also be responsible for being negligent and propagating lies.

How Did Richard Montanez Join Frito-Lay?

Richard came from a humble background; his parents worked at a grape vineyard located in Guasti, California, and he went to an elementary school there itself. The Montanez family didn’t have much, but that never stopped a young Richard from exploring his options and finding his passion. Richard Montanez had to face a lot of racism in school, but that never lowered his spirit; in fact, it made him even more determined to fight against his circumstances and come out victorious. Richard met Judy in the elementary school itself, and they stayed together ever since. Richard left school at a very early age, even before he could complete his high school, and he got involved in all sorts of illegal activities after that to make a living. Judy always felt that Richard was special, even though the world saw him merely as a gangster. When Judy was about to have her first child, she told Richard that he would have to look for a normal job, as she didn’t want to jeopardize the future of her child. Richard started doing that but it was not easy as he had no qualifications, and his reputation was also not very good in the neighborhood.

After knocking on every door, Richard was on the verge of giving up and going back to his old life as a gangster, but after meeting the head of the block, who worked at Frito-Lay, he decided to apply for the job there itself and asked him to put in a good word for him. Frito-Lay was a big company, and they required the applicants to fill in all sorts of details in the application form. Richard was clueless about how to proceed and neither did he know how to read English, nor did he have any sort of educational qualifications. Judy helped him, and together they made up everything and filled in lies presuming that nobody would catch him. Lonny Mason, the supervisor, took Richard’s interview, and he immediately got to know that most of the details mentioned there were not true. Lonny was going to reject Richard when he pleaded with him to give him any sort of job that he had. Lonny was moved by the sincerity of the guy, and he decided to give him the job of the janitor. With a legit job in his hands for the first time in his life, Richard felt that there was no stopping him now.

How Did Richard Pitch His Idea To Roger Enrico?

Richard was happy with his job, and he had no issues with being a janitor, but he also didn’t want to be that for his whole life. He knew that he was meant to do something big, and he was constantly in search of that one idea that would change his life. Clarence C. Baker, the head machine operator, came as a blessing in disguise, and he took Richard under his wings and taught him all about the machines at Frito-Lay. Clarence and Richard soon become the best of friends, and they knew that bit by bit, they would accomplish their dreams because they were not going to surrender to their circumstances so easily. 

The United States of America was suffering from a severe recession at that point in time, and most of the companies were shutting down. The ones that were able to somehow sustain themselves, like Frito-Lay, were laying off their employees and cutting budgets. Richard knew that the time couldn’t have been more right and that he quickly needed to think of something before he lost his job. Richard was sitting in the park with his children when his younger son said something about the corn being extremely spicy but yet so delicious that even when tears were coming out of his eyes, he wanted to have more. That’s when Richard got the idea of creating a flamin’ hot line of snacks that would cater to the taste buds of his people. He noticed that the snacks produced by Frito-Lay were quite bland compared to what the Hispanics were used to eating in their native land.

Richard knew that people of Hispanic origin constituted a huge part of the consumer base, and that’s why the chances of his product being a success were quite high. But the thing was, he was a janitor, and there were strict rules inside PepsiCo regarding the rank hierarchy. Nobody was allowed to break ranks, but Richard knew that it was probably the best chance he had. He took the phone number of Roger Enrico, the CEO of PepsiCo, and called him directly. If anybody else had been in place of the overly optimistic Richard Montanez, they would have never made the call because they would have presumed that the CEO talking to them one-on-one was the most illogical and absurd thing anyone could ever think of. But dreams are not fulfilled by people who worry too much about logic. Roger did attend the call, and he told Richard to send him his samples as he was open to ideas, even if they came from a janitor. Roger loved the spicy remix version of the Frito-Lay snack, and he told Richard to be prepared with a presentation as he was willing to have a conversation with him in person. Richard gave his best shot, and it was enough to convince Roger Enrico, who decided that he would test out 5000 samples and see what kind of response he got from the customers.

‘Flamin’ Hot’ Ending Explained: How Did Richard Montanez Become A Marketing Genius?

The Flamin’ Hot Frito-Lay line of snacks was decorated on the shelves of the general stores, but to the disappointment of Richard Montanez, they didn’t sell like he had expected them to. Richard didn’t know what to do as the superiors were talking about taking it down from the shelves, and that’s when his son pointed out that PepsiCo was not advertising his product, whereas there was a commercial running for every other snack. Richard realized that there was a need to mobilize the Hispanic crowds, and for that, he went back to his old gangster crew, as they had the best network for guerilla marketing in the entire area.

Richard and his men started giving out free samples to people and creating the hype about the product in that particular region. Though the statistical report showed that people were buying Richard’s spicy snack, there were still some officials who didn’t believe that it would be successful in the long run. But Enrico wanted to take his chances, as he had a lot of faith in Richard’s vision. Against the wishes of some high-ranking officials, he told Richard to give him five million units of the product. Richard was elated, but he was still working as a janitor, and he expected that he would be promoted to the post of machine operator at least, but he wasn’t getting any kind of intimation from the board. The end of Flamin’ Hot told us that dreams do come true if you stay persistent and do not give up, as Enrico surprised Richard by telling him that he was being made the Director of Multicultural Marketing in Frito-Lay. Richard couldn’t believe that his years of struggle had finally ended. 

In the years to come, Richard Montanez came to be known as the godfather of Latino marketing and kept on climbing the ladder of success until he became a top-tier executive at PepsiCo. The odds never favored Richard Montanez, but he was adamant about making his own destiny, and he never lost faith in his dreams and believed that one day, he would be able to achieve what he had set out for. There were many times when his morale went down, but he had people like Clarence by his side who kept motivating him and helped him to keep moving forward. We hope that the allegations against Montanez are not true because otherwise it would break the heart of many people, especially from the Hispanic community who had looked up to him and thought that one day they would also achieve a similar feat. 

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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