This week, we sat down with Carl Portelli from Head Office and oh boy was it interesting! Carl shared his passion and expert knowledge of food and all things property. Many of you may not know this, but he had an illustrious career as a professional chef prior to becoming involved in real estate… and even appeared in a TV show! With wise words on nutrition and exercise, we can see why Carl has the stamina and energy to cope with being an extremely busy agent and have his wits about him after a busy day when he battles it out with opponents in competitive online gaming. Here’s what we found out:
“…the most pleasant part of my job is helping clients to find their new home and the look on their faces when they are handed the keys for the first time… it is priceless.”
Who is Carl exactly? Tell us in about 100 words?
Hmmm…. Let’s start from the beginning. I’d say that coming from a history of grinding it out in the catering industry for many years, I first and foremost still consider myself a seasoned chef!
The first time I stepped into a commercial kitchen was after a proposal from my dad to get insight on how hard he worked. It was a very controversial move, but as a youngster I fell completely in love with the magic that happened in the “back of house”! It was amazing seeing a bunch of ingredients turn into a mouth-watering dish… having your taste buds go on a culinary journey and to end up with a very satisfied guest. I thus, at the age of 18 joined culinary school in order to take it to the next level.
The switch to real estate came naturally: I could easily relate to the challenges and demanding customer service that ultimately leads to a client finding their perfect new home. On the other hand, when I’m not working, I love competitive online gaming, outdoor activities, entertaining guests and spending quality time with my family.
What can you tell us about your background and your family?
This goes back to quite a few decades ago… where Dad, as a young chef, was working in the UK. One time he was out and about and forgot his wallet in a diner! My mum who had just moved from Jamaica, found the wallet and tracked him down… It was love at first sight I’d say! A year later my sister Anita was born, followed by myself and then my youngest sister Elizabeth.
We hear you like walking and exercising… do you have any favourite places outdoors or is it mainly in a gym?
I find the unbeaten path the most interesting of areas: secluded areas like Ghar Lapsi, Golden Bay, Rabat and Bahrija are all excellent areas for a tranquil and peaceful stroll with gob-smacking views! As for exercising, I find nothing beats an early morning jog around my neighborhood in Naxxar.
Does staying active help you with work, and if so, in what way?
Most definitely! An early morning workout not only keeps you healthy but also keeps you sharp and focused for the rest of the day.
Tell us about your past work experience…
Throughout the years I have worked alongside loads of people… many of whom were very interesting characters. I discovered that allowing anyone their freedom of expression brings out the best of your crew and in turn the unity always contributes towards progress. I’m proud to say that I’ve run and managed multiple restaurants successfully and even cooked for a full season on a very popular TV show!
What attracted you to join the Frank Salt Team?
I always had the urge to give real estate a shot. That encouraged me to do some serious research and truth be told, there is no other outfit like ours! I’m proud to be part of such a dynamic team.
What was the last book you read?
‘Kitchen Confidential – Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly’ by the late chef Anthony Bourdain. It’s an honest review of what actually happens behind the scenes.
If you could have supper with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?
I would give anything to have one last supper with my dad who unfortunately passed away some time ago.
I am pretty much relaxed but more nervous when I am on a tight schedule! I try to switch off, focus and do my thing and normally I will go through the topic to familiarize myself with it and what is expected of me.
Tell us about your favourite dishes to make as a chef
One of my all-time favourites is ‘Chicken Roulade’ which is actually inspired by the classic, ‘Cordon Bleu Chicken’: A chicken breast is gently butterflied then lightly pounded and seasoned. Parma ham is placed on the inside, followed by young Gouda cheese. Then the breast is tightly rolled after being placed inside cling film. The next step is to poach it for 45 minutes and chill it again. Now the plastic gets removed and it is passed through seasoned flour and egg wash and then coated with Panko breading. Bake it at 190 degrees Celcius for 25 minutes. Make a Romesco sauce as a base with your Roulade now cut on the slant and serve it with tender stems as this will complement the dish well.
As someone who knows about food and nutrition, what’s your opinion about fast food?
Great question! Primarily we need to make a distinction, as it falls into two spectrums: on the one hand, we have junk food that is processed, where the cost is minimalized using inferior ingredients with little or no nutritional value. On the other hand, we have good food made fast…where chefs prepare an array of foods that can be cooked or served in a target time of 3-7 minutes. These can range from a healthy, tasty wrap, a heart-warming bowl of Ramen noodles or a freshly prepared salad all with great nutritional values intact. Choose your next meal wisely.
If you could invent a dish for all of time to be named after you like ‘Peach Melba’ or ‘Pizza Margherita’, what will it be?
I’m a rather modest person but I’d be more than happy to create and name a dish after any of you!
What do you enjoy the most about your job?
Working at Frank Salt Real Estate is nothing short of amazing. It’s a very high-octane environment where we feed off one another’s energy… so the vibe is great all-round! I’d say the most pleasant part of my job is helping clients to find their new home and the look on their faces when they are handed the keys for the first time… it is priceless.
Which film have you seen over and over again and enjoyed every time?
‘The Matrix’ – It is a 10 out of 10 sci-fi cult movie where cinematics and imagination are taken to the next level.
What would you do if had enough money and did not need to work?
This may sound a bit cliché but I’ve never done it for the money. I see a pay check as merely the end bit of the entire package, so I guess I will still be grafting just for the love of it. Mark Twain once said: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
What was the last show you binge-watched?
‘The Big Bang Theory’
What is your best childhood memory?
I had a fantastic childhood: in my early teens I spent loads of time skateboarding and learning new tricks… it was a grind, but once I mastered it, it always looked smooth and effortless. One of my favourite memories revolves around a particular incident: I kick-flipped down a flight of stairs in front of a large audience and nailed it perfectly… my mates and the crowd just went wild! I loved it!
Imagine you are at karaoke night. What song will you be singing and will someone sing with you?
Singing is not really my strongest point – but if I had my back against the wall it would definitely have to be James Brown’s ‘I feel good’ and because he’s such a sport, I’d pull Douglas Salt along to join in!
Have you ever eaten something strange or unusual? If so, what?
That depends on what one would consider as unusual? Just a short list of things I’ve tried are: escargot, frog’s legs, kangaroo, ostrich and bulls testicles!
Is there a favourite toy from your childhood that you wish you kept?
Whenever I bought a new game console I would normally give away the older model along with its games or cartridges. I never thought about collecting them but they would have made a great addition as collectables on a shelf!
Is there anything you hate doing and if so, why?
Most definitely: ironing! It’s a very time consuming process, so I do the bulk on a Sunday evening and my best to avoid it during the week.
Are you competitive? If you came joint first in a race, would you be a good sport or a sore loser?
When it comes to online gaming, I’m insanely competitive! The initial thought is to win every time, as there are no prizes for second place. Truth be told, there are elements of luck along with skill that come into play. If it was a photo finish in real life, I would shake hands with my fellow competitor and congratulate them. My friends see me as team player but admittedly, we all hate losing… right?
What advice will you give to someone who wants to become an estate agent?
It’s a fantastic a job! You get what you put in but you have to be self-motivated, flexible and most of all, a people’s person. Always remember to never give up because you never know what’s round the corner.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you that you will never forget?
There are simply too many to choose my favourite one. “Funny” happens all the time!
Tell us about your love for competitive gaming…
I play mostly first-person shooters, mainly the ‘Call of Duty’ franchise and my favourite game mode is ‘Warzone’. This is where 150 armed soldiers jump of a plane in teams of 4, into a land called ‘Caldera’… the object of the game is to be the last team standing.
If you did not live in Malta, where would you see yourself?
England. I’d say my favourite place in England would be Brighton. It reminds me a lot of Malta as it is a coastal city with medieval architecture and fantastic fish and chips.
Give us the best piece of advice you will share with a younger person just starting out in life?
Be true to yourself, be humble, respect your elders and always be kind to yourself and to others around you.
Did you have a great or awful time at school and would you relive some of the times if you could?
I went to Stella Maris College in Gzira and in those days the system was much stricter… but today I am very appreciative of this as I have solid values and morals which helps me to make decisions in my everyday life.
If you had a warning label attached to you, what would it say?
‘Make me coffee’
What are the ingredients for a good party?
Good music, great company and a couple of beers
Can you get along without your mobile phone for a weekend?…. and whatever the answer, elaborate?
No, I most definitely can’t. For starters, social media is my business platform! I have all my contact numbers on there and I can simultaneously communicate with my family who live abroad.
What would be your superpower?
If I had a superpower, I would freeze time.
What will you do if you had a time machine?
I would make sure that I see concerts of all the great artists that have sadly passed.
What do you regard as the biggest mystery that still needs to be unravelled? The pyramids, UFO’s, life on other planets? You tell us!
I would say UFO’s. I find it ridiculous that there is “no life” beyond our solar system.
Some interesting facts about carl we’d like to share
What is your star sign?
What is your favourite beverage?
Are you a morning person or a night-owl?
Which is your favourite month?
What age would you choose…. if you could be that age forever and why?
Do you have a favourite seasons/s?
Idea of a fantastic night out?
An evening at an elite, fine dining restaurant.
Name one thing that you regret not having done.
Not having done real estate before!
Do you prefer 1) having a meal sitting down formally in a restaurant 2) rather the convenience of a home a delivery or 3) a takeout?
In a restaurant.