Review: Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Chef

four-hour-chef-cover-250I love it when a book proves me wrong.

I’m a huge Ramit Sethi fan.  Ask me about personal finance, or about how I ran my job search, or how to negotiate for anything and I guarantee you I’ll say something like, “Dude, Ramit says…”  I am certain The Better Half is tired of hearing it.  So when Ramit wrote about how everyone needs to read Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Chef, like a lemming, I grabbed it off of Amazon and right to my kindle.

At first, I thought it was going to be a one of those “How to Cook” books for people who don’t cook at all.  I can cook, so I don’t need the basics.  About a quarter of the way through, I wondered if I had wasted $12.

Then, shit started to get real.

(Sorry.  I’m even talking like him now.)

Ferriss had a nice list of items that are good to start off with in a kitchen.  I may or may not have added a few to my Amazon cart (Surgical towels? I have been looking for them for ages.  A good review of an immersion blender?  Yes, please.  Non-stick that won’t kill me with fumes of doom?  Awesome.).  Then, the lessons began.  It’s really less about cooking and more about how to learn, and how successful people– those who are in the top 10% of anything– learn to be as great as they are.  Ferriss, with the help of some big name chefs, tries to make cooking a practiced skill, and not bind the novice cook to recipes.  Instead, you learn the basics and build from there.  Beginning cookbooks often dumb down food, or rely on processed products.  Not this one.  Tim Ferriss is hugely into “hacking” his body– he maintains a “slow carb” diet and used to run supplement companies.  Whole ingredients here, no shortcuts.

This is basically just Lifehacker for cooking.

So as you proceed through the lessons, from a riff on osso bucco, to harissa crab cakes, to “sexy-time steak”, to practice hosting a party and cooking a dinner party, things get more complicated.  Eventually, you’re proceeding to sautéed beef heart, moules marinare, and butchering chickens.  Finally, he gets into some modernist cuisine– using foams, spherification, and pressure cooking.  The idea is you go from not being able to boil water to, with a little practice, some pretty kick-butt cooking.

It will take you more than four hours to master cooking.  That’s not the point.  The point is that you’re learning how to learn, and cooking just happens to be what you learn, and the key to learning is practice, practice, practice.  Ferriss takes knives and cutting boards with him on business trips to practice knife skills. Talk about dedication (and his laser focus is the cause of his success, I am sure).  Sure, there’s some fluff– I do not want to kill my own food, thanks, nor do I want to make a Turbacon.  Sometimes I lost him on his tangents. I did get an interesting for preventing airlines losing my luggage that blew my mind a little.  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I devoured this book in a couple of hours, and I’m looking forward to trying a few things once I get home.  Definitely pick this up– it’s entertaining, you’ll learn a few things, and his 140-character recipes from around the world are worth the price of admission.  It’s nerdy, it’s fun.  I liked it.