NOT many Perth chefs can lay claim to cooking for Canadian heart-throb and fresh seafood devotee Keanu Reeves (although many women would love to).
Cottesloe Beach Hotel head chef Coby Cockburn can; he was the star’s personal chef, no less.
For almost three weeks in 2002, he cooked a multitude of meals, including plenty of fresh crayfish, for the Point Break star and about 45 of his family and friends on Double Island in Queensland, where he was holidaying amid filming sci-fi trilogy The Matrix.
Hailing from Port Douglas, Coby (30) moved to Perth about four months ago.
Like Reeves, he loves his seafood and is passionate about cooking it just right.
“I grew up on the beach – fishing and drag-netting – so seafood was a big part of my life,” Coby said.
“Best tip in the world is to start the fish in a hot pan and then pull it out just before it’s ready and let it steam the rest of the way. That way, it will always be moist.
“Also, you want your fish to taste like fish so don’t try to do too much with it.”
In recent months, the CBH has taken a new direction, catering to a more mature demographic, with plans in action for an upscale garden bar offering dining, due for summer.
And basic pub grub staples like chicken parmigiana and calamari rings have been replaced with share plates featuring duck pate and Moreton Bay bugs and substantial offerings such as kangaroo saltimbocca and marron linguini.
Coby adores his trade – starting his apprenticeship at 16 and going on to work at notable Port Douglas eateries including Watergate as executive chef – but he also acknowledges its downside.
“People see MasterChef and think it’s a glamorous job but it’s not,” he said.
“You work long hours; it’s uncomfortable and high-pressure.
“But when you go into a busy service and do it right, it’s addictive.”