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Introducing Gonçalo Castel Branco, Portuguese entrepreneur / doer.
I became friends with Gonçalo and his wife Iris when I was living in Lisbon a few years ago. I liked them immediately. I was lucky enough to be a guest on their first series of The Presidential Train luxury dining experience from Porto into the Duoro Valley. Gonçalo is at once warm and charismatic, with a thousand stories to tell. He is the master of creative projects (The Presidential Train, Chefs on Fire, The House of Hope and Dreams, just to name a few), and an incredibly inspiring and magnetic person to be around. We enjoyed a number of dinner parties in Lisbon together, the best being one at their house with a table full of random friends (which Gonçalo and Iris often love to do). They are impeccable hosts. It is a pleasure to chat with Gonçalo here.

Name: Gonçalo Castel-Branco


Star Sign: Sagitarius


Hometown: Lisbon, Portugal


Where do you live now? In downtown Lisbon.


Describe yourself in 3 words or less… Father, Nerd, Doer. 


Describe Lisbon in 3 words or less… Sunny, vibrant, charming.


How long have you been isolating for now? About 4 weeks.


Who are you isolating with? My amazing girls - my wife Iris, and my daughters Nini (15) and Luisa (2).

What is the vibe like in Lisbon? Right now its a mix between apprehensive and united - this situation really does bring out the best in all of us. It also feels eerily distant - you look out the window and see this amazing light and vibe, but it feels a million miles away and out of reach. You actually feel peoples anxiety just by walking down the street - which has absolutely no resemblance to the everyday comfortable and homey Lisbon vibe. At the same time, you notice so much you never did - your neighbours, your own home, yourself in a crisis. Its so challenging and interesting and exciting at the same time. 


Tell us a bit about your work… I'm basically a doer - I get stuff done. I manage a company of about 15 talented individuals (Lohad) that has created projects like the award-winning The Presidential Train, Chefs on Fire, or The House of Hope and Dreams, but my 20 year career spans primetime TV, events, branding, national and international politics, theatre, music and innovation, as well as maintaining a commitment to teaching and mentoring new talent.


Right now, and for the past month, I've turned my attention towards helping as many people as possible throughout this crisis - fundraising and coordinating international medical equipment to Portugal, helping design an innovative marketplace that gets company to invest, now, in future artists work; and working with our partners and market in helping navigate those less prepared through this crazy ride.

How has it been affected by Covid-19? Our company specialises in creating Original Experiences, mainly in the luxury tourism and entertainment industries, so as you can imagine we were hit hard and fast. I'm hoping this will all settle down by summer so we can keep our September and October projects going, but it's really too soon to tell. Luckily I have outstanding partners and investors, who have been steadfast in their support of our team and our vision from day one of this crisis.

What does your new kind of daily routine look like? Working twice as hard, twice as long, trying to navigate this new reality with all its quirks. I have an average of 25 zoom calls a day, and there is a lot of real time decision making, but other than that it's just your run-of-the-mill high stakes poker game.  :) 

Do you have any daily rituals? I do - I get up at 7.30am, give my youngest daughter breakfast, meditate for half an hour, and then I start my day. At the end of the day I take dinner time to relax, have a glass of wine, spend a couple of hours with the girls away from screens (who knew Monopoly was this much fun?!), and then work for a couple more hours.

Are you finding more creative inspiration in this time? Absolutely. Moments of crisis are tremendously productive if you are ready and able, and if you have an amazing team like I do. And when you are working on important problems - like helping gather funds, or getting medical equipment to hospitals - it really steadies your purpose and generates energy and focus.

What other creative outlets do you turn to? I play piano every day.

What is on your stereo? Right now I have Radiohead´s Ok Computer on vinyl.

What books and/or podcasts are you getting into at the moment? My family are podcast nerds - we’ve had a daily diet for 5 or 6 years that right now includes Radiolab, This American Life, and The Memory Palace.

Are there any local shops or suppliers you are still able to support at this time? Absolutely - all our food and groceries come from our local farm to table suppliers, like the amazing Comida Independente, or the Prado restaurant grocery. Both are organic, natural wine based, locally sourced and really cool projects that have been hard at work to keep their doors open and their suppliers in business while this goes on. 

What about movement? Have you been doing any online classes you can recommend? The girls have been doing Ryan Heffington´s dance class on Instagram, and I join in when I can. Other than that I sometimes get away with playing around with my golf club and a ping pong ball inside the house, but only until I get “the look” from Iris.

Or mindfulness/meditation? Is there anyone you turn to at this time? The Headspace app is amazing and has been a daily routine since 2019 - I love it, and it really helps me manage my emotions and my focus. 

When this blooming virus goes away, where will you be travelling to next? We had a family trip planned that we will hopefully get back to immediately - in an RV, driving up California visiting the National Parks.

Are you a window or aisle seat kinda guy? I'm a big window guy - especially because I sleep very easily on planes.

What 3 things are always in your suitcase? Tom Ford's beard oil, Bose noise reduction headphones, costume-made leather passport holder.

What are your 3 favourite hotels in the world? Six Senses Douro Valley, Vila Joya in Algarve, and Hotel 41 in London.

Words you live by… If it's ok, I'll go a bit long form here and tell you my favourite Aaron Sorkin story: 

"This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out. A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on. Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"


And lastly, who are you most looking forward to hugging when all of this is over?!!

Every single person ever. :)

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