THE HISTORY OF
POLLO A LA BRASA
After the Second World War, in the early 50s, Roger Schuler—a Swiss citizen—arrives in Peru to establish a chicken farm business in the town of Santa Clara, in the district of Ate, Lima. Among other things, chickens bring the nuisance of flies along with them. Apparently, an American friend of Schuler told him that there was one color (blue) which was good to keep flies away and—never one to miss a trick—Schuler painted the whole farm in blue! Soon, people around were commenting: “Hey, that crazy guy painted his farm blue! Later on, a bad situation turned into a successful business.
The chicken farm went bankrupt, so Schuler put a visible sign on the highway: “All the chicken you can eat for 5 Soles”. It was an instant boom! People started flocking in to “La Granja Azul” (The Blue Farm), the restaurant that he improvised in his own hacienda! However, the restaurant was always so crowded, that it started slowing down service because of the way they were preparing the chicken, in a small grill.
So Roger Schuler decides to contact a friend, another Swiss, Franz Ulrich, who owned and operated a metal mechanics shop and asks him to build an oven to cook the chicken. Thus, the “rotombo” oven—also known as “planetario” or “spiedo”—was invented and the patent registered! This oven had six metal rods and each rod could hold eight baby chickens of less than one kilogram each. The metal rods spin clockwise and, independently, around their own axis, at a very high temperature (generally between between 300 and 370 degrees F) cooking the chicken uniformly, sealing-in the juices and giving it a delicious, slightly charred flavor.
People from all over Lima made their way to La Granja Azul to devour the tender “Pollo a la Brasa”. Back then, La Granja Azul became the only restaurant where the aristocracy of Lima allowed themselves to eat using their hands, and to indulge their appetites, often competing to see who could eat the most chicken in a single lunch. The bill was free for those who could break successive records, and their names and pictures were hung in a special spot in the main salon. Originally (during the 50s and until the early 70s) the consumption of “Pollo a la Brasa” was specific to just the high socioeconomic classes; however, its consumption later came to include the middle and low socioeconomic classes, as well. Its popularity became massive sometime during the 70s.
The success of La Granja Azul was such that other “Pollerías” (restaurants where “Pollo a la Brasa” is served) started opening along the years: The first one was “El Rancho”, which opened in 1957. The owner, Isidoro Steinmann, was also a Swiss citizen and Ulrich’s same machine was installed there. Then came “Pío-Pío”, “Norky’s”, “La Caravana”, “El Cortijo”, “Pardo’s Chicken” , just to mention a few. After 60 years, the recipe remains the same and the chicken is served with large French fries, and traditionally eaten with the fingers, without cutlery.