Familia Diaz: 75-oz three-tiered tamale takes on eating challengers

February 09, 2011
Santa Paula News

It was more akin to the Towering Inferno than a famous Mexican food favorite but Rudy Vera of Santa Paula was game in trying to win $75 by eating a 75-ounce three-layer tamale at Familia Diaz Friday, January 28.

Surrounded by well wishers, Vera looked from the half-consumed tamale to the hourglass marking that more than 30 minutes that had passed of the hour he had to finish the dish.

“I think,” he said with a sigh, “it’s going to win... “

The 75th anniversary of Familia Diaz Cafe is the inspiration for a 75-ounce tamale that challengers must order at least a week in advance and then eat in 60 minutes or less if they hope to win the $75 cash prize. All those who try to tackle the huge tamale - only a handful so far - receive a Familia Diaz T-shirt.

It’s the same pork tamale with chile Colorado sauce found on the regular menu, just much, much - much! - bigger, said Sandi Diaz Tovias, co-owner of the restaurant with brother Dan Diaz.

Mother, Celia Diaz - over the years the maven and maker of more than 375,000 tamales - assembles the gigantic tamale in the morning for an afternoon of steaming.

Challengers pay $19.36 for the gigantic, multi-tiered tamale, a figure that represents the year the café was open. If they eat the whole thing the tamale is free.

Vera said he entered the competition as a family affair: “My son,” Rudy Jr. “dared me... he’s going to have to it in two weeks.”

Diaz Tovias said Vera was the fifth challenger since the anniversary-year event started in November; only one has polished off the tamale, and Damon Wells, a competitive eater from Orange County, not only consumed the 4.69-pound tamale in 14 minutes and 30 seconds he even asked for and then ate a half order of nachos.

“It was,” said Diaz Tovias with a laugh, “something to see!”

Vera said he trained for the eating event, well, at least sort of: “I didn’t eat today and I went to the gym... but I’m finished. I can’t finish it. But it was worth the $19.36 and to bring my family.”

Vera’s supporters - including his niece Tiffany Rivera of Ventura - cheered and took pictures and other patrons offered encouragement as they passed by, Vera admitted he was avoiding looking at the hour glass “But,” he noted with a gesture towards his plate, “I don’t want to look at this either... delicious, but too much!”

Celia Diaz said the competition has been fun, even when devoting mornings to carefully measuring out the ingredients for the gigantic meal.

But people should not forget there’s another bargain tied into the anniversary of the eatery she and her husband Tony operated for decades: “We have our signature margaritas,” said Celia with a smile, “for 75 cents,” after the first one is purchased at regular price.

Vera was sticking to a soft drink and when asked if he knew if there was a runner-up prize he sat back: “I hope,” he said eying the remains of the tamale that would be wrapped up and taken home, “it’s Tums... “

The sixth challenger tackled the gigantic tamale last Friday night but Brandon Dreher failed to meet the one-hour cleaning the plate deadline.

For more information on the competition at Familia Diaz, located at 245 S. 10th St., call 805-525-2813.

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