The secret of the taste of Pollo Campero

CMI for its abbreviation, will inaugurate in Quetzaltenango the flagship restaurant of the 50th anniversary “Pollo Campero La Marimba“, located on Avenida la Independencia in zone 1. The recipe known as a “tender, juicy and crunchy” chicken has an author, who told us in a telephone interview, the story of this successful project that now operates in 14 countries and with more than 350 restaurants in Guatemala, Central America, South America, the United States and Spain.Don Paco, fifty years later Does Pollo Campero have the original flavor?  “You would have to ask them -CMI-, I have been detached for a long time, the detailed history is in my book Memorial of Kitchens and Battles”.

Which came first, thinking about a restaurant or a recipe?

“In Guatemala, before, the chicken that was consumed was the so-called patio, usually in recipes such as jocón, pepián and guisados. Our main business was the sale of chicken meat and my goal was to sell as much as possible,” says Pérez de Antón, who arrived from Spain to Guatemala at age 23 to marry María Consuelo Gutiérrez, a quetzalteca. “We designed the chain with one goal in mind: Guatemala’s middle class. But very soon the restaurants were invaded by the most popular stratum. My idea was always to have low prices,” he says.

The beginnings

Domingo Moreira, of Cuban origin, pioneer of the poultry industry in Guatemala, founded the first two fried chicken restaurants, called Pollo Caporal.

“In 1994, I was 24 years old and I was starting to build a poultry company, promoted by Don Juan Bautista Gutiérrez, founder and patriarch of the Gutiérrez Group, which was owned by his wife and mine. It was called Granja Villalobos and I served as an industrial partner…”, writes Pérez de Antón.The Gutiérrez Group at that time was only a milling industry, founded 30 years earlier in Quetzaltenango, now entering poultry farming.

“In 1995 we absorbed a small chicken meat operation, owned by other Cubans, surnamed Menéndez, also exiled in Guatemala. It was not necessary to invest. The Menéndezes handed over the poultry operation (whose name was Pollo Rey) in exchange for the debt they had with the factory, and Granja Villalobos absorbed the operation and the debt, with the commitment to pay both in installments”, adds Juan José Gutiérrez Mayorga, a business venture that would become what is now CMI.The Secret of chicken flavor

Poultry Villalobos

In the late sixties, Avícola Villalobos produced only 30 thousand chickens per week. When Don Paco considers the possibility of selling chicken meat in ways other than raw, he accepts that, as an engineer, he did not know anything about cooking, but he looked in books and personal visits for how to cook chicken meat efficiently.

He decides to make grilled chicken, with a combination of cider vinegar and cayenne pepper. Project that discards because the process was very slow. He continued to look for recipes and ways to cook chicken meat, until an employee of the company told him that he knew how to make a recipe very similar to that of Pollo Caporal. The taste clicked on him and he sets out to install a metal shed with a gas fryer in front of the Clover cinema.It is the first step of Pollo Campero, a traveling kitchen, with a chicken meat that was put in brine in sour orange juice, pepper, salt, onion, garlic and oregano, then fried and was the chicken a la “orange”.

Carla Fowler

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