Andy Huot, a mechanical engineer from Louisville, Kentucky, spends his free time looking for recognizable shapes in bags of Cheetos Cheese Curls. Over the past year, he has spent hours opening bag after bag of the high-calorie snack, examining each nugget of puffed corn with the concentration of a museum curator. He takes photographs of all his exciting finds and shares them on Instagram for his 40,000 + followers to see.
It all started last October, when Andy was working on an invention at home. He got hungry, so he simply grabbed a bag of Cheetos and dug right in. Because his ‘creative mind’ was already at work, he began to spot seemingly ‘humanoid’ pieces. Intrigued, he clicked a few photographs with his phone and shared them with his friends and family who found it very funny.
So he set up ‘Cheese Curls of Instagram’, an account where he only posts ‘pictures of Cheetos that resemble things’. Within hours, he began to get hundreds of likes and comments. “I didn’t expect this response,” he admitted. “It motivated me to keep going to try harder.” So he did just that. By the end of last year, he had amassed a huge following with comments like: “this is the most unique and epic page on Instagram”.
But along with the praise came a fair bit of criticism. “In the first 20 or 30 posts I was holding them with my hands, taking a picture with my phone,” he explained. “Then I switched to a tweezer after getting comments about my cheesy fingers.” He also invented a sort of contraption to photograph the Cheetos. It has a workbench with a dedicated tripod to support the camera, and a picture frame to hold the Cheetos up. The rig is set up in his son’s room, where the natural light is just right.
Andy now spends all his free time curating Cheetos. He spends 5 to 10 minutes every morning and 20 minutes at night on Instagram. And he works 30 minutes extra Monday through Thursday, just so he can spend half of Friday sifting through Cheetos for great shapes. “First of all, I have to be eating them,” he said. “I can’t just open a bag and look for good ones. It just doesn’t work.”
“I actually only eat 60 to 70 percent of the bag and if I find anything, I call it a ‘Suspect Cheeto’. I will save it on a paper plate that I have sitting on my counter. I just set it up there. Then I go back to it for further observation. By that time they’re already stale so I don’t end up eating those.”
When he finds a showcase piece, he photographs it, and then stores it in an airtight tackle box for safekeeping. The Cheetos seem to have surprising stay power. “I have some that are eight months old and are still perfectly fine,” he said. “It seems like they actually gain strength over time – they take on moisture and get so stale that they’re no longer brittle any more.”
While he mostly sticks to Cheetos, Andy doesn’t hesitate to use generic, store-bought brands, although they aren’t ideal for creating art. “The problem with off-brands is that they don’t have quality control,” he said. “They don’t dust the coating evenly, It’s kind of distracting.” Over time, Andy has realised that Cheetos Crunchy Flamin’ Hot creates the best art. “I’m not sure if they actually process them differently or if it’s the way that they put the coating on it reveals the texture most, but those seem to give better shapes,” he said. But regardless of the flavor or brand he uses, he manages to find “at least one shape in each bag”.
What makes Andy’s work unique is not just the fact that he’s able to spot these shapes, but that he’s also able to photograph and caption them with a unique storyline. For instance, he’s got a stiletto-shaped Cheeto with the description: “While this High Heel Shoe doesn’t have the Right Proportions to Qualify as a Stiletto, it Will Still Make the Bust and Buttocks More Prominent in those who Wear it.”
Some of the other unique Cheetos he’s managed to find include “T-Rex”, “Flamin’ Hot Cat”, and “Upset and Crying Over his New Flattop Haircut, this Toddler is Held by his Mother, who Tries to Induce Laughter by Placing her Mouth Against his Chest and Blowing to Produce the Playful Sound of Flatulence.”
And now that his Instagram account has seen success, Andy is trying to take his Cheetos art to the next level. He set up an Etsy account a few weeks ago, through which he offers “very high-quality” prints of his photographs, priced at $20 to $25 each. One of the prints for sale is called ‘The Execution-Style Killings of a Man for Being Different’, which took him nearly two weeks to produce.
Some might question if Andy’s work really classifies as art, but he has only one response to that: “I think art is something that you don’t see every day. You look at it and it makes you feel something. It induces emotions. Sometimes, it also makes you wonder what the hell is going on.” He does have moments of self-doubt, but when he reads the comments, he realises that it’s all worth it.
“It’s easy to think of this as a big joke,” he said. “But there’s something magical in bringing Cheetos to life.”
Photos: Andy Huot/Instagram