A rudimentary rotisserie system first designed the Greeks was turned by hand, Pollo A La Brasa was developed in the XIX century, when a machine of strings was invented to minimize human labor. However, for reasons unknown, the invention was soon forgotten about.
A century later, two Swiss men living in Peru —Roger Schuler and Franz Ulrich, resurrected the machine and perfected it...
As the legend goes, (That is, this is how historian Eloy Jáuregui tells it, although Roger’s son Johnny, swears it’s unlikely,) one Sunday afternoon, Schuler and a friend (a Swiss names Mario Bertoli Demarchi) discovered that a farmer from Santa Clara skewered chicks with a large iron bar and manually turned the bar over flames. Said machine, designed by the Greeks, was known as a “rotombo” in these parts. It was then that a light bulb went off in Schuler’s head—according to Jáuregui—and asked his friend Franz Ulrich to design a machine that improved on the virtues of the rotombo.
Often is seems necessity is the mother of invention and legends aside, what is certain is that in 1946, Roger Schuler established a chicken farm in his house with the intention to sell them in his Miraflores and Lince stores. He called them, "Productos Avícolas de La Granja Azul."
One time in February of 1950, there were problems with the business and there were a large number of chickens that weren’t sold. Schuler talked with Ulrich, a mechanic, and between the two, they built a motored, chained machine which allowed them to cook a large amount of chickens at the same time; a system called “planetario.” He then put a sign up in full view of the Central Railway claiming, “Eat all the chicken you can for 5 soles!” and improvised a restaurant in his own house, to serve chicken cooked by this strange machine. There were no more than four tables between the living and dining rooms.
Schuler himself was the cook, waiter and manager of the makeshift restaurant, with his wife, Doña Rosita, as the cashier who also prepared the desserts. The farm workers shared the work of bartenders and busboys.
Sometime after this pioneer restaurant was established in Santa Clara, another Swiss with the name of Steinmann inaugurated a locale closer to Metropolis Lima. It was baptized in 1957 as “El Rancho” and Ulrich’s same machine was installed there.
Schuler’s pollos a la brasa were such a hit, that today, La Granja Azul, can accommodate 450 comensales at the same time and naturally, “all the chicken you eat” will cost you 55 soles. Two kilometers behind, another one of Roger’s sons, Jimmy, opened a restaurant a few years ago called El Pillo, where this national culinary specialty is also served.
And that is how Schuler and Steinmann made this part of Peru's “cultural heritage of the nation” popular. It was during the 70’s that pollerias in Lima became widespread. This pollero boom—not just in restaurants, but also with the bird breeders—perhaps came to be because during those years, Peruvians were used to eating hen, which was Sunday-outing dish, costly and not always available back then.
Aside from La Granja Azul y El Rancho, there were other well-known Lima restaurants in the 70’s that served pollo a la brasa, such as “El Cortijo”, “La Macarena”, “El Supergordo” and “La Carreta”. They, however, weren’t enough to keep up with the demand that only kept on growing. This is why in 1966, Carlos Meza opened “La Caravana” in Pueblo Libre, directly on Sucre Avenue. During that time, westerns were popular, so figures like John Wayne became Meza’s idol, who also cooked his meals by turning them on skewers over open flames
Pollo a la brasa has been practically elevated to such a level that describes it as a symbol of Peruvianism; a symbol, not official, but because of this, much more powerful than those which are because it hasn't been instituted by any decree. Instead, it has be consegrated by the masses. Just like Sarita Colonia, it has worked its way to the top. Thanks to its popularity, and in response to the demands of various restaurants led by La Caravana, the National Institute of Culture, by means of Resolución Directoral Nº 1066 of October 14, 2004, declared pollo a la brasa as a an official part of Peru's cultural heritage.
All of this brings us to the present where you can now experience this taste sensation right here in Centennial, CO, USA!