The Truth About Richard Montanez, The Flamin' Hot Cheetos Founder

Chips, a spicy mix of eclectic flavors, and cheese. What could go wrong? Flamin' Hot Cheetos are a cult favorite for a reason. According to Spoon University, these sources of wonder and magic have a very interesting backstory. They were invented by Richard Montañez, who was a janitor at Frito-Lay at the time. He was uber-confident about his idea and credited a Mexican dish called elote (Mexican corn) with chili powder as his inspiration for the idea. 

It must be noted that Montañez did not have an easy start in life. According to Inc, he grew up in difficult circumstances but didn't know that his family wasn't well off financially. They lived in a town called Guasti which was near Ontario, California. Growing up, Montañez didn't have big dreams. Like many other children he knew, he simply wished to get a gig at a factory nearby. Eventually, he landed a job as a janitor at the Frito-Lay Rancho Cucamonga branch in California.

Things looked up for Montañez when his company's president encouraged all the employees to think big and "act like an owner." This was the turning point for him: "I looked around and didn't see a lot of reaction from my co-workers, but for me it was the opportunity to do something different."

He experimented with his spicy Cheetos recipe

According to Inc, Montañez got his chance when a machine malfunctioned and a few Cheetos weren't dusted with the brand's characteristic orange cheese powder. He experimented with the product at home, adding chili powder to them to see what he could come up with. This led to Montañez creating a spicy recipe for Cheetos that he shared with management through a presentation. Here's where things get heartwarming (and not just from the spices): He didn't know how to do a presentation, but he didn't let that stop him. Montañez and his wife hit the local library and armed themselves with research. By the time the day of the presentation rolled around, he was prepared with a strategy, a tie, and a sample bag of his version of Cheetos. And that was enough.

Montañez found his superiors whole-heartedly embracing his idea and launched Flamin' Hot Cheetos, which is considered the company's most successful snack. As for Montañez? He was promoted for his hard work and he became the executive vice president of multicultural sales and community activation, PepsiCo, North America.

His advice for others? "Don't take your position for granted, regardless of what that position may be," Montañez said (via CNBC). "CEO or janitor, act like you own the company."