Lively and in-depth discussions of city news, politics, science, entertainment, the arts, and more.
Hosted by Larry Mantle
Airs Weekdays 10 am - 12 pm

How A New Article On The Disputed Origin Story Of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Kicked Up A Controversy Of Its Own

Multiple bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos on display at a grocery store.
Multiple bags of Flamin' Hot Cheetos on display at a grocery store.

Listen to story

Download this story 17MB

After the Los Angeles Times released an investigation disputing Richard Montañez’s longtime claim as the creator of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, the piece ignited a controversy around culinary ownership, race and how the histories of people of color should be told.

Richard Montañez’s famous story begins when he was a janitor at Frito-Lay’s Rancho Cucamonga plant, where he conceived of an idea for a chile-coated Cheeto. He called the chief executive at the time and pitched the idea, resulting in the extremely popular Flamin’ Hot Cheetos line and vaulting him into such stratospheres of success that a feature film of his life is currently in development.

But reporter Sam Dean’s LA Times article, which is based off of the claims made by several Frito-Lay executives, claims that Montañez did not actually invent Flamin’ Hots. Many readers, however, were not convinced by the story. Some felt that the LA Times’ reporting tactics were too sensational and not nuanced enough, particularly in regards to Montañez’s significance  as a prominent Latino success story in a white corporate industry.

Today on AirTalk, we speak to Gustavo Arellano about his new piece in response to the criticism of the LA Times. But we want to hear from you— how do you think the story should be told? Give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Gustavo Arellano, Los Angeles Times columnist covering Southern California; his recent column is “What the anger over Flamin’ Hot Cheetos origin story is really about”; he tweets @GustavoArellano