Albert Okura Will Present “The True Story Of Juan Pollo”

The San Bernardino Historical and Pioneer Society program met last night and Mr. Okura was the main speaker.

San Bernardino, CA, August 05, 2012 --( Juan Pollo’s founder, talked about the company’s history, future plans and his secret “Step By Step” method of cooking perfect chicken. He also had copies of his recently published book, which the presentation is based on, for purchase. Food (Juan Pollo Chicken) was also served. His spoke of his 50 year plan.

These plans also are described in his new book, "Albert Okura: The Chicken Man with a 50-Year Plan" (LCM Publishing, $22.95) or from Amazon for $19.99 shipped.

It's full of great pictures and terrific stories and golden quotes. You can't read it without becoming convinced that world conquest is certainly within reach for this man.

As he puts it: "It's destiny." In a time when many other business leaders are in full retreat, Okura is pushing forward. While others are downsizing, he is expanding. While others are lowering their expectations, he is raising his.

Okura was a hamburger guy who didn't even like chicken, he says. But he saw that there was a shift away from red meat, so he decided to capitalize. He opened his first Juan Pollo restaurant featuring charbroiled chicken in Ontario in January 1984. His first-day sales: A lousy $165.

"I didn't know what I was doing," he says. "I didn't know how to cook chicken. I didn't even like chicken. But I told myself I was going to do this, and I was going to stick with it no matter what. I made a commitment."

Okura and an associate, Armando Parra, worked on their chicken recipe. They decided to cook it rotisserie-style instead of on the barbecue. They developed a special spice blend. The chicken was marinated overnight, then cooked slowly for three hours. The chicken was never cut open until it was done to perfection - flavorful and moist.

Okura also raised his prices. "And sales started jumping," he says. "We made $1,300 the first Friday."

In January 1986 he opened his second restaurant at Fifth Street and Mount Vernon Avenue in San Bernardino (now the chain's flagship location). Business was slow for months, but that summer The Sun's restaurant critic at the time, Norm Baffrey, paid a visit, and declared in print that it was the best chicken he ever had eaten.

Their methods were copied by two other San Bernardino men, Neal Baker who founded the Baker's chain, and Glen Bell who founded Taco Tia, Taco Bell and Der Wienerschnitzel. A Bell employee, Ed Hackbarth, founded the Del Taco chain.

When Okura learned that the Inland Empire is the birthplace of fast food, and that he is carrying on a tradition here, he did something about it. He brought the tradition full circle.

In 1998, when he heard that the site of the original McDonald's was for sale, he bought it for $135,000 and established a museum there.

In 2005, when he learned that another Route 66 landmark, the High Desert town of Amboy, was for sale, he bought that, too - for $400,000 cash. He's now in the process of bringing it back to life. Amboy, midway between Barstow and Needles, has the "potential to be the greatest Route 66 attraction in the West," he says.

"I didn't know, when I was starting out, that I would be promoting and preserving the Inland Empire," he says. "It must be destiny."
Juan Pollo
Greg Nakadate