Top positive review
85 people found this helpful
Tim Ferriss is naked
on November 20, 2012
In interest of full disclosure, before you read this review, I should mention that I am featured in a chapter and mentioned elsewhere, and that Tim is a friend of mine. Having said that, both the review and the book are worth reading.
No, to business: the 4-Hour Chef is described as a cookbook for people who don't buy cookbooks. I would say that is a slight misnomer, especially in my case. For me, it's been a cookbook for people who don't USE cookbooks.
I buy plenty of cookbooks, generally those that are written by celebrity chefs and pertain to either steak or cake, these being the two foods I most enjoy eating (and don't even get me started on a cake made of steak--I hope that's Tim's next project). I read them and enjoy them, but I almost never USE them. If I get one usable recipe out a cookbook, it's a lot. Still, I never consider it money wasted, because cookbooks like nice on the shelf, and to me books are as much for decoration as they for utility and pleasure.
Tim's book serves all three of these purposes.
Unlike most cookbooks that just give you ingredients and directions, the 4-Hour Chef doen'st just TELL you how to took; it TEACHES you how to cook. Since getting the book two weeks ago (advance review copy, I have made three recipes: the salt baked sweet potatoes (easy and delish), the go-carb yeast waffles (holy crap amazing) and the bacon infused bourbon (had to. as good as it sounds). Of course, my copy is now getting beat up and has a few stains on it, but, you know, that's the price of glory and all.
I decided to actually try these recipes because not only was there progression in terms of difficulty, but because Tim actually explained the science of how they were made; learning about everything infusion to gels to powders--this is the stuff that made me WANT to try these recipes. Of course, they all looked and sounded delicious, but I really just enjoyed the process of learning.
And that's what 4HC is really about: learning. And more specifically, learning how to learn. Learning the skill of learning skills; or, as Tim dubs it, "meta-learning."
If you're familiar with Tim's work, you know that cooking isn't his thing. And if you read the 4-Hour Workweek and the 4-Hour Body, you know that neither task and time management or fitness are really his "thing" either; he wrote about those things BECAUSE of his thing: breaking down complex skills and learning them quickly.
As I see it, the 4 Hour Chef is Tim at his most "naked." Since 2007, when 4HWW came out, we've heard Tim talk about learning tango in 4 weeks, or learning how to swim, competing and medaling in Chinese kickboxing with very little time to train--or any of the other accomplishments that he's become well known for. But we've never SEEN him learn these thing in real time; we always get the stories long after the fact.
While all of the feats in both 4HWW and 4HB are impressive by any measure, there is something very different in this book. In the 4-Hour Workweek, Tim was focusing on his job. While he wrote some revolutionary stuff, ultimately you'd EXPECT a Princeton grad to be smart and good at his job. In the 4-Hour Body, Tim is writing about fitness, a hobby of his for nearly 20 years. Again, some very smart and revolutionary stuff in there, but after 20 years, you would expect him to know what he's talking about.
That's what makes 4HC completely different: Tim is learning as we learn.
Prior to this book, Tim was not a cook. It's not even that he wasn't a "good cook" -- he just didn't cook at all. (Evidence: his youtube video of making eggs in a microwave.)
At 34-years old, Ferriss went into this project with NO skills--and in about 6 months, came out on the other side of the ordeal being more proficient in the kitchen than many people are after 20 years of cooking for their families. I'm sure Tim isn't a master chef, but he learned an incredibly complex series of skills and built his proficiency to a high level in a very short period of time. And that, after all, if his THING.
For the first time, Tim isn't just telling stories; he's taking the reader along for the ride. And because he wants the reader to be able to do what he does and learn as he learns, the first part of the book gets you read to do exactly what he does: learn.
The first section of 4HC is called "META" and in that section reveals his strategies for learning, and creates and lays out an entire framework for learning any skill or becoming extremely proficient at just about anything in six months. Whether it's shooting hoops or speaking Spanish--yes--learning to cook, the section on Meta-learning along is worth the price of the book. And, in fact, is the real POINT of the book.
From my perspective, cooking is the vehicle of demonstration; it's the particular skillset that Tim chose to illustrate both meta-learning and it's benefits. The recipes are fantastic, the skills he covers are valuable, and the education in the culinary arts and culinary world are invaluable. So it the nutrition information.
But learning. Learning is where it's at.
And this book will help you learn anything. But first, you must learn how to learn.
If you haven't already picked this up, do so. It's worth the read, worth the time, and certainly worth the money.