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Founder Of East LA’s El Tepeyac Restaurant Was ‘An Absolute Legend’

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BOYLE HEIGHTS (CBSLA.com) — Hundreds of people were on hand Tuesday to bid farewell to Manuel Rojas, the founder of El Tepeyac restaurant, who lost his battle with cancer this month at the age of 79.

“My father knew a lot of people,” daughter Elena Rojas said. “Knew a lot of people and loved a lot of people. He cared for a lot of people.”

Rojas, who died on Feb. 12, first opened the doors of the popular East LA restaurant in 1952. Rojas was known for creating the famous five-pound Hollenbeck burrito, featured on the Travel Channel show, “Man Vs. Food” in 2009.

“He was a legend,” longtime customer David Sanchez said. “An absolute legend. Always had open arms for you.”

Friends say Rojas was loved by the community because he treated all of his customers like family. Many customers took to Facebook after Rojas’ death to write messages like, “Rest in peace, your legacy lives on,” and “Long live the king of east Los Angeles in our hearts.”

“He was the only guy that can get away with kissing your wife, no matter if you were standing there or not,” friend Andy Gutierrez said.

Rojas’ daughter says even though her father is gone, they will do everything to keep his legacy alive.

“There’s some big shoes to fill, but we will try our best,” Elena Rojas said.

In lieu of flowers, the Rojas family and the staff of El Tepeyac have requested donations be made in his memory to one of his favorite charities: the Salesian Boys and Girls Club, Hollenbeck Youth Center, Roosevelt High School and Garfield High School.

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