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The Maltese chef making his mark at MonteKristo Estate

Patrick J O Brien meets an inventive, funny and downright ‘salt of the earth’ chef cooking up a storm in the hospitality industry

Marvin Zammit isn’t your typical head chef. Aged 43, he has the kind of CV that almost makes you question what you’ve achieved in life. Yes! looks can be deceiving but for this cheerful chef even brightening up a customer’s sweet tooth after a restaurant meal is what life is all about, it just gives him simple joy. His latest role, taking over the reins at one of MonteKristo’s Premier eatery, The Rare-Steakhouse and Grill Restaurant comes after a stint at some of Malta’s well-known dining houses including the likes of Sciacca Grill.

The Rare-Steakhouse and Grill is located on the upper floor of The Brewery Pub at The Montekristo Estate where Marvin and Jacqueline, the affable house Manager and the team serve prime cuts cooked to perfection as they boast a rich menu of selected beef and veal cuts together with a variety of other grills for all to enjoy. At this restaurant, one can sit back relax and appreciate the spectacular atmosphere and divine décor western style, with ample indoor and outdoor space and a vast food and beverage menu.

From even a brief chat, Zammit has the kind of modesty that is rarely seen in a chef persona, though quirky, he began his career in hospitality working in the kitchen,he seems to put his success down to being in the right place at the right time “I worked my way up from the age of 13, and progressed quite quickly, mainly through taking on more responsibility.” Zammit states clearly it wasn’t all about availability. Zammit has racked up a small but high-quality list of former employers, he stays away with the name-dropping, and he is at pains to point out that he prefers to follow his own inventions than copy what others chefs and Restaurants are doing. What he does care about is the provenance and quality of his food and drinks, something he credits Montekristo with inspiring. “We have a traditional Bavarian Brewery situated within the restaurant, home to our very own Brauerei Montekristo crafted beer, something unique for Malta” he says. “As well as our own wines, I personally enjoy doing a lot of foraging and seeing what’s outside when it comes to vegetables meats etc. . At the brewery we try and use over 90 per cent Maltese produce”

Zammit’s laid-back approach is more understandable when you discover that looking after his 13-year-old horse Orsini and his dog Maxamillion, who is a constant feature on the ground of MonteKristo is his main activity outside of work. You get the feeling that it’s this quality that has been spotted, alongside his culinary skills, which helped secure a calm pair of hands and clear head when dealing with a leading busy restaurant. It’s something he recognizes the value of himself: “When you’re leading a kitchen, people take on your ethos,” he says. “If people are enjoying working, they’ll work better. If everyone gets that it isn’t just my show, then they’re more likely to come up with their own ideas.”

He describes his own cooking style as “not over-complicating it”. “There’s a lot of chefs who will try and dissect a tomato in 10 different ways. Serving it on its own with olive oil and salt, that’s all you really need if it’s a good tomato. Alongside seasonality and good quality food, Zammit also seems to have a penchant for DIY, his kitchen team at MonteKristo make some of their own cooking ingredients

“What three words would he choose to describe himself? “Creative and modest,” he begins, pausing before adding, “and fun, because otherwise that’s a long time to spend with someone at work, especially when I am here almost 24/7.”

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