New Orlando restaurant defies the odds, flourishes during pandemic

Chicken Fire isn't just a new Orlando chicken restaurant. It represents a local entrepreneur's vision that grew and flourished while a pandemic cratered much of the local economy.

"All we were hearing at the time is that everything is going to be shut down, you're not going to be able to operate, the industry is going to go under," said Chicken Fire’s owner, Kwame Boakye.

But that didn't happen to Chicken Fire, which opened its doors to customers on Friday. Boakye and his team built the Nashville-style spicy fried chicken business from a food truck, a little more than a year ago.

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"We started in Oct 2019 as a pop-up," Boakye said, "we had a small rinky-dink food trailer that we restored and put together."

When the pandemic hit, they gave free food and discounts to students and unemployed service workers. "We were here to feed anyone that needed it," Boakye said, "no questions asked. Because that's our heart, that's who we are at our core."

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They continued building a strong following and soon moved-up to serving in larger venues, as the shutdowns eased. Local backers took notice and now Chicken Fire is dishing its meals at their own place on Orlando’s Colonial Drive.

"It's been a complete blessing to grow to this point," Boakye said, "we're just ecstatic." 

Photo credit: Katherine Nguyen

Up till Friday, they'd only been taking Uber Eats orders. The staff said it had been a race keeping up with the demand. "Extremely, extremely busy," said Arron Potts, a restaurant worker, "and it's just going to get more!"

They say they appreciate the repeat customers they call "Fire Fans" who got them where they are, today. "We can honestly say we love all of our customers," said Jelyssa Boakye, Kwame’s wife who also works at the restaurant, "and they show love back."