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The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life Hardcover – Print, November 20, 2012
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“If you crossed Jason Bourne with Julia Child, you’d end up with Tim Ferriss.” – Marco Canora, Chef-Partner of Hearth & Terroir
“Wildly inventive.. [a] rangy, obsessive immersion in food and its many wonders. [T]he tools needed to learn to cook well can be deployed in every manner of endeavor, from skinning a deer to memorizing a deck of cards. The author distills them into minimal, learnable units and examines how to order the units so as to keep readers engaged in their endeavors. Ferriss is a beguiling guide to this process, at once charmingly smart aleck-y and deadly serious, and he aims to make readers knowledgeable and freethinking.” - Kirkus Reviews
"Tim Ferriss distills kitchen wisdom like a rotary evaporator on power surge. The results are potent, lucid, and delicious." - Nick Kokonas, Co-Owner, Alinea, Next, The Aviary
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Second disclaimer: I am NOT a Tim worshiper. The 4-Hour Workweek is a sometimes unethical pipe dream that a couple people writers imitating Tim have made money on. For most of us, it contains a couple tricks to be more efficient at our 9-5. The 4-Hour Body is a relatively interesting and fun book on fitness and diet experimentation. I learned a few tips and tricks from it and really enjoyed reading about his experiences. I have read most of Tim's blog and consider it a sometimes better alternative to "Life Hacker".
Those two disclaimers being said, this is a GREAT book if you come in with the right expectations. If you're looking for 600+ pages solely devoted to grocery shopping, prep, recipes, cooking and eating, you will not find it here. You'll find about 200-250 pages dedicated solely to such, and 200 more at least somewhat related--consisting of wilderness cooking and survival, great restaurants, 140 character recipes, and basic tools you need in the kitchen. At a macro level, the most useful cooking lessons are Tim's notes on equipment to have in your kitchen, his 10 easy recipes (most of which are really interesting/easy shortcuts), and the charts on spices that go with different countries. At a micro level, I picked up a few random tidbits from the 1/2-pagers on how to quickly defrost a steak, how to make the perfect cup of coffee, etc. The most important part of this section is that Tim teaches you HOW to cook, not just how to follow a recipe. The best part about his methodology is that he removes all roadblocks from the reader--the excessively expensive equipment, the hard to find ingredients, and the difficult cooking techniques are all put nicely out of mind with shortcuts and detailed pictures.
The rest of the book, in my opinion, is actually more interesting. The first section is about a hundred pages are worth the price of admission alone. It details a method to learn anything efficiently--Tim is merely using cooking as a MEDIUM to teach this method. I've started applying this first section to learning a number of skills already. As the middle sections are the ones devoted to cooking and wilderness survival that I detailed above, the appendix is related to random skills and interesting "life hacks" that you can learn quickly. Yes, these feel like last-minute additions but if one thing is clear Tim actually cares about his readers, why not throw in these interesting pages--they do not detract from the focus as they are part of the appendix.
If I can say one thing--buy this book. For me, I can see myself going back to it for years anytime I'd like to learn a new skill (be it with cooking or otherwise). If you want to learn HOW to cook taught in an unpretentious tone with easy to follow pictures, you'll find it here. If you're interested in shortcuts to learning complex skills, you'll find it here. If you just want to pick up a few cooking shortcuts, you will most definitely be delighted with this book. And lastly, if you are a fan of Tim and his other works, absolutely buy this book.
Lastly, a note on format, BUY THE HARDCOVER. I bought the Kindle as well since it was on sale for just $4.99 on Amazon and it does not even come close to comparing to the hardcover version. This book is meant to have pages cut out and marked up, its detailed color pictures to be seen, etc.
But this is also a Tim Ferris book, which means that, along with the awesomeness, it will tend to also be on the scattered side. An additional editorial pass might have been helpful here. Most frustratingly, some recipes are missing steps or practical considerations. There are some some weird layout issues and detours in strange places as well, which may be the fault of the ebook format rendering rather than the content itself (I have a kindle copy).
If you can deal with a few frustrations, and improvise a bit, you'll find that this makes for a really interesting read for someone who wants to learn to cook better, or just learn something new in general. In fact, some of the best parts of the book tend to fall into the category of "unorthodox thinking and learning" rather than being specific to cooking.
It's almost as if there are two books here, both of which would be quite on their own, but their manic competition for reader mindshare may be a bit too frustrating for the average reader.
Most recent customer reviews
It covers so much more than just cooking. It is basically a book on rapid learning, full of interesting facts and details. Brilliantly written.