đź’Ž Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

A $1 million speaking business telling a story he made up.

Dear friends, founders, and people who put Bugles on their fingers before eating them…..what up bugle nation!

Today I’m going to tell you about an entrepreneur (or big fat liar?) who has made a fortune telling a story I’m pretty sure he completely made up.

Do you hate him? Or respect his hustle?

Meet Richard Montañez.

A few things about Richard:

  • He dropped out of school in the 4th grade

  • He worked odd jobs (like pulling weeds & slaughtering chickens) to make ends meet

  • He lived with 14 people in a tiny home with no A/C

Great underdog story, right?

It gets better.

Even though he couldn’t read or write, he got a job as as janitor for Frito-Lay.

Before his first day, his grandfather told him: “make sure that floor shines, and let them know that a Montañez mopped it”.

One day, the CEO of Frito-Lay sent an email encouraging everyone to “behave like an owner” in the business.

Most people ignored it as typical rah-rah-corporate-bullshit, but Montañez saw it as an opportunity to make a splash.

He went to a corner store, and studied the shelves. He noticed that Frito-Lay wasn’t selling anything spicy. Nothing with “kick.”

So, he decided to create a spicy chip.

While working a night shift at Frito-Lay, Montañez took home a few un-dusted Cheetos and with the help of his wife dowsed them in his own recipe of spices.

His creation was delicious. Damn delicious.

So Montañez called the Frito-Lay’s CEO and told him about his idea… a spicy Cheeto.

The CEO was interested, and asked him to put together a sales pitch.

Montañez bought a $3 tie, copy and pasted some text from a book on marketing strategies, created his own packaging with a custom design and as a first-generation immigrant janitor unable to write or read English he presented to Frito-Lay’s CEO the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto… a snack that would go on to become a multi-billion dollar asset for the company.

Today, Montañez is the vice president of multicultural sales for PepsiCo America.

Montañez’s story is inspiring. So much so, that…

  • He gets paid $50k per appearance to tell his story

  • Walmart, Target and Harvard have paid him to consult and speak

  • Penguin Random House gave him a book deal

  • Eva Longoria turned his story into a movie that’s streaming on Disney+ & Hulu right now

There’s only one tiny problem… it’s not true.

Like, none of it.

Richard did go from janitor to executive at Frito Lay….but he wasn’t involved in the creation of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

In fact, Frito-Lay has made a public statement saying…

“None of our records show that Richard was involved in any capacity in the Flamin’ Hot test market. We have interviewed multiple personnel who were involved in the test market, and all of them indicate that Richard was not involved in any capacity in the test market. That doesn’t mean we don’t celebrate Richard but the facts do not support the urban legend.”


Turns out, he started claiming credit for it ~20 years after it was invented, so most of the people who actually invented it had retired by then.

The Los Angeles Times interviewed dozens of employees at Frito-Lay who worked directly on the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto project and all of them have said, more or less, the same thing: Montañez is full of shit.

He did work on marketing Frito Lay products to Latinos, and helped develop other (way less popular) products like:

  • Flamin’ hot Popcorn

  • Flamin’ hot Fritos

  • Lime & Chile Corn Chips

He came out with those 5 years after a totally separate team invented the Flamin’ Hot Cheetoh.

Look, I’m all about a good story. And a janitor inventing the spicy cheetoh is a GREAT story.

But I don’t get down with people stealing credit for other peoples work. I’m officially inducting this story into the Liar Hall Of Fame. Right up there with “Carbs are the foundation of the Food Pyramid” and Bill Clinton’s: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”.

Look at his speaker bio where he charges up to $50K per speaking gig. Look how carefully he worded that he is “recognized as the creator”.

On top of that, he posted on instagram:

“I don’t care what room you’re in, there’s always somebody in the room that’s going to try to steal your destiny. They may even say you never existed,” Montañez says to the camera. “I want you to do this: Write down your history, because if you don’t, somebody else will. Remember that. And also remember this, the best way to destroy a positive message is to destroy the messenger. Never allow that to happen to you. I’m certainly not going to allow it to happen to me.”

Except there’s one problem with his story. He says that CEO Roger Enrico was the one he pitched the idea to…but Roger Enrico wasn’t even working at the company when the Flaming Hot Cheetoh’s hit the market.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Flamin’ Hot Fire.

– Shaan & Ben


Tap your choice below 👇