Private chef Sergio Perera reveals what Chris Hemsworth eats

Michelin-trained Spanish chef Sergio Perera shares his go-to dining spots at home and abroad. And how he helped change the eating habits of his A-list employer.

Jane Rocca

Michelin-trained Spanish chef Sergio Perera made the move to Australia seven years ago, but it wasn’t to work in a restaurant. Instead, it was to take up the starry role of Chris Hemsworth’s private chef, a position secured over a meal with the A-list star and the actor’s wife, Elsa Pataky, at Three Blue Ducks in Byron Bay.

Sergio Perera, a chef to the superstars.
Sergio Perera, a chef to the superstars.Supplied

Perera was living in the United States and ready to relocate back to his native Spain when restaurant plans didn’t work out. That’s when he accidently fell in to cooking for celebrities, when he filled a shift for a friend who was cooking for Tom Cruise during the filming of Vanilla Sky. Perera has since cooked for Oprah Winfrey, Madonna, Cher, Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Downey Jr (who avoids poultry and opts for gluten-free, for what it’s worth).

Perera is also the reason Hemsworth has swapped meat for a Mediterranean diet, with fish now his regular go-to. “Chris is incredibly strong, tall and athletic, but prior to meeting him, he was mostly big on meats, beef and steaks,” Perera says.

Perera’s Mediterranean-style fish dishes were a “revelation” to Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth.
Perera’s Mediterranean-style fish dishes were a “revelation” to Hollywood star Chris Hemsworth.Janie Barrett

“I knew Elsa from the film industry in Spain. She is big on Mediterranean-style cooking, but Chris wasn’t so familiar with all the dishes.

“When I started cooking for him, I was focused on seafood. I’d cook an entire coral trout with an emulsion from the collagen of the fish heads, combined this with some olive oil to make a beautiful thick sauce to pour over the fish. This was a revelation to Chris.”

Eating In

Signature Dish

I love slow-braised meats – it’s my ultimate comfort food. I like to make a beef Bourguignon or a rabbit dish my grandfather taught me. I love the labour involved in making something like this.

My guilty pleasure is a capricciosa pizza with ham and artichoke.

Best kitchen wisdom

Trust your intuition – this is especially so in savoury cooking. There is a lot of nurture and intuition involved. A lot of recipes I grew up learning didn’t come with [written] recipes to follow. You would modify and change them depending on what the balance needed — this continues to be a big one for me.

Perera likes to dine at the Three Blue Ducks at Byron Bay.
Perera likes to dine at the Three Blue Ducks at Byron Bay. Paul Harris

Eating out

Favourite Byron Bay spot

I live between Byron Bay and Sydney and consider them both home. I love the food at Three Blue Ducks, this restaurant was my first introduction to Australian cooking, where farm produce and Asian influences play a huge role. I ate a simple white fish crudo with ingredients I hadn’t seen before, such as pickled roselle. The pickling and sweetness in the crudo was perfect. The simple salad made with local olive oil was also a winner.

I am a big fan of High Life in Byron. They’re big on mushroom powders and use colostrum in some of their coffee drinks. Turmeric is big, too. This isn’t your standard breakfast spot, it’s unique. I always order duck eggs and potato tacos, which are delicious – they like to use Mexican seasoning, which I love in this.

Poly is one of Perera’s Surry Hills go-to eateries.
Poly is one of Perera’s Surry Hills go-to eateries.Jessica Hromas

Favourite Surry Hills spots

I love Poly in Surry Hills. Chef Mat Lindsay is brilliant and I love his passion for fire-cooking. There’s something contemporary and rustic with what he does. My favourite dish is the big beautiful hash brown – potatoes that have been pressed overnight in a large square and perfectly fried. When truffles are in season, he adds them and also makes an egg-yolk sauce; it’s simple and so well done.

I also like Four Ate Five in Surry Hills because they use a lot of Middle Eastern influences in their breakfasts. I always order the slow-cooked lamb shoulder on a bed of hummus with a poached egg and pita bread.

Perera’s favourite bar is Bar Heather.
Perera’s favourite bar is Bar Heather. Danielle Smith

Favourite bar

My favourite bar is Bar Heather in Byron Bay. A beautiful, classic looking bar, it feels like you’re in Melbourne when you’re inside. They have a great selection of wines. I always order a martini with a twist.

In Sydney, I go to The Doss House in The Rocks. Known for their whisky selection, the space is stunning and makes feel like you’re in Europe. I drink a glass of aged whisky here.

Perera loves the refined cooking at three-hatted Brae in Victoria.
Perera loves the refined cooking at three-hatted Brae in Victoria.Colin Page

A special Australian dining memory

One of my first and most memorable meals when I moved to Australia was eating at Brae in Birregurra, in Victoria, with my partner. Dan Hunter is an incredible chef, we worked at the same restaurant, Mugaritz, in Basque Country, Spain. [Brae] was the first time I was introduced to eating kangaroo, which was cooked in a miso caramel. Hunter showed me what Australian cuisine was in this day and age.

On the road

Barcelona is the mecca of modern gastronomy, but you should try some regular spots that are local favourites. El Xampanyet is in a traditional Spanish space that is loud with lots of energy. Three people are in the kitchen cooking traditional home-style meals. One dish reminds me of my grandparent’s home – a braised bean dish with squid ink and topped with bits of slow-cooked tender squid. Simple and beautiful.

I worked with chef Albert Adria at El Bulli. He now runs his own restaurant, Enigma, and it’s one of the most innovative in the world. It’s an amazing experience to go and dine there. He was literally the hand that created everything at El Bulli.

I also love Estimar. Chef Rafa Zafra creates the most insane seafood [dishes] you’ll ever eat. It’s all about using all the fish, and he buys it from the same fishmongers who used to supply El Bulli. It’s the way he cooks the fish you will long remember. They’re also known for the cheesecake, it’s almost a combination of an American-style one with a Basque cake.

For excellent cocktails head to Sips in Barcelona. The head bartender Marc Alvarez creates each cocktail by visualising it as an edible − his techniques are insane. There’s a reason this is in the World’s 50 Best Bars.

Dr Stravinsky is another amazing cocktail bar that uses fermented ingredients in their drinks, which make them interesting and delicious.

Sergio Perera will appear at Noosa Eat and Drink Festival from May 30, sharing his heritage dishes, those inspired by his grandfather and some tips on dishes he makes for his top-tier clients.

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Jane RoccaJane Rocca is a regular contributor to Sunday Life Magazine, Executive Style, The Age EG, columnist and features writer at Domain Review, Domain Living’s Personal Space page. She is a published author of four books.

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