Rockin Chicken hosts fundraiser for its chef who lost everything in an apartment fire

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The Rockin Chicken, a Peruvian rotisserie chicken restaurant at 476 Franklin Ave. in Hartford, will host a fundraiser on Jan. 24 to raise money for its chef, who lost his home and all his belongings in a Jan. 12 apartment fire.

The restaurant usually is closed on Mondays, but it will open that day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., serving a limited menu. Owner Kate Colan said 100% of the proceeds will be given to Luis Bernal.

On the morning of Jan. 12, Bernal drove his 11-year-old son to school, then went back to his 105 Preston St. apartment in the South End to catch up on some sleep. He was woken by a fire alarm, jumped out of bed and opened the door of his bedroom.

“The dining room was black and orange,” Bernal said.

The flames blasted toward him when he opened that door. He ran through the blaze in his bare feet and out the door of his first-floor home.

“I didn’t see anything. I just ran,” he said.

He made it out safely and stood in the cold air in his bare feet watching his home burn with everything he owned inside: furniture, TV, kitchenware, clothes, even his Christmas tree. His car keys burned, too, which means he can’t drive his car.

The Red Cross gave Bernal and his son, Lionel, a place to stay for a night and a $500 gift card to be used for clothes and food only. Lionel relocated to his mother’s home. Bernal now lives with his brother and is looking for a new apartment with the help of city social services.

Eight people were injured in the fire: Seven were treated for smoke inhalation and one woman broke her ankle when she jumped from a window. Twenty families were displaced. The cause of the fire is still being investigated.

Colan saw the news reports of the fire.

“The address didn’t register in my mind until he called me,” she said. “I was so sad. A person can lose everything in a minute. This could happen to any of us.”

In Peru, Bernal’s native country, a “pollada” is held when someone has a financial crisis.

“People cook food in their homes and get together and sell it and make money and give it all to the person so he can start over,” Colan said.

She liked the idea of a pollada better than a Gofundme.

“It’s winter and there’s COVID going on. People have so many struggles at the moment. I didn’t want to ask people to just give money,” she said. “This way everyone can get a good meal while doing something for someone.”

Colan kept the offerings on Jan. 24 limited and affordable. For $15, the choices are a quarter-chicken with two sides and two sauces; chaufa de pollo a la brasa; seco de carne; or pasta verde. For $10, the offerings are a choice of pork chicharron sandwich, a mostrito burrito, salchipapas or a large soup of the day (aguadito, chicken or beef). Donations also will be accepted through Jan. 31 and can be made at through the online ordering system.

“Hopefully we will get a good turnout,” Colan said. “We have got some donations already.”

Susan Dunne can be reached at

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