HAYWARD — Ready "... set "... taco!
Call it 10 minutes of gluttony. Twenty contestants will simultaneously start their gastrointestinal engines Saturday afternoon for a speed-feed of tortillas, carne asada and hot sauce at the El Taquito Taco Eating Contest, something the restaurant intends to make an annual event.
"I have no idea how many I can eat, but I saw this as a great opportunity to help out a small business," said Councilman Francisco Zermeno, who will be gobbling elbow-to-elbow with other competitive eating rookies.
"We don't do enough for them — you take a business like El Taquito, a family business that's been around for 33 years, they've invested in Hayward, and we need to make them feel like someone appreciates them."
The other 19 entrants are regular customers and their friends, said Frank Padilla, who owns the business with his brother, Damien.
Registration is closed, said Padilla: "We have more than twice that many signed up." But spectators, and, of course, customers, are welcome.
Event organizer Lee Phillips said he would be surprised to see someone break the 10 taco barrier.
"I can only eat two, and I'm kind of big myself," he said.
Earlier this month, Pat Bertoletti — considered one of the world's top competitive eaters — devoured 33 Pepe's soft tacos in five minutes to set a record in Crete, Ill.
"Those were probably taco-truck size" said Padilla. "Ours are two or three times bigger than that."
Phillips said such competitors wouldn't be fair at the local event. He said he once saw San Jose resident and reigning hot-dog champ Joey Chestnut do his thing and found it very intimidating.
But Padilla said he'd be happy to host Chestnut.
"I'd feed him," he said. "If he showed up, I'd give him 100 tacos if he could eat them all."
El Taquito is at 22354 Mission Blvd. in Hayward.
Mayor Michael Sweeney will give the signal to start eating at 1 p.m Saturday.
Eric Kurhi covers Hayward. Reach him at 510-293-2473.