I recently had the opportunity to interview New York Times Best Selling Author Tim Ferriss about the release of his new book: The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life. Ferriss and I talked about why he chose cooking to teach his methods for learning anything faster, and how he went from life-long non-cook to easy gourmet cooking starting with a whirlwind 48 hour cooking school with a renowned chef. (stay tuned for the video interview later today!)
Ferriss has two previous books, The 4-Hour Workweek (which details how to maximize efficiency in work/business) and The 4-Hour Body (which is a blueprint for everything from weight loss to muscle gain and everything in between). I first became interested in Ferriss’ work when I read the 4-Hour Workweek and applied the principles he talks about to my blogging to help maximize my efficiency so I wouldn’t be cutting in to family time. The 4-Hour Body was fascinating to me both from a nutritional and fitness perspective, but also from a marketing perspective after seeing how he engineered his launch and debuted at #1.
I didn’t expect anything less from The 4-Hour Chef, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. My digital review copy was almost 700 pages long and was a lot more than a simple cookbook. Ferriss’ goal was to provide readers a complete blueprint on how to master cooking (and any other goal) quickly and effectively. He is a proponent of Pareto’s Law and finding the 20% in any situation that allows for 80% of the results. From learning languages, to losing weight, to learning to swim- Ferriss teaches how to cut the learning curve.
What is The 4-Hour Chef?
It is certainly an unconventional cookbook and a whole lot more. It is the first cookbook I’ve read that isn’t just recipe based but that offers a blueprint (and specific help) for learning languages, the science of cooking, survival cooking and living, rapid memorization and so much more.
The 4-Hour Chef appealed to me personally because I like Ferriss’ unconventional approach and I am hopeful that it will inspire a love of cooking (real, healthy foods) in people who otherwise might not be interested in it. I also like Ferriss’ approach to learning, or “meta-learning” as he refers to it. The basic idea is figuring out the most rapid and effective way to learn a new skill to maximize your use of time. I learned some of this by trial and error when learning speed reading and rapid memorization in school, but I like how Ferriss applies it to everything from fitness to cooking to languages and everything in between.
The 4-Hour Chef is designed to take complete non-cooks and warp them in to functional chefs who actually enjoy cooking (Ferriss admits that he could only cook eggs in the microwave *cringe* before starting his goal of mastering the art of cooking).
The front cover of the book includes a fitting quote… that “If you crossed Jason Bourne with Julia Child, you’d end up with Tim Ferriss.” Ferriss definitely thinks outside of the box… While most of us might make a resolution to hit the gym for an hour a day if we wanted to lose weight, Tim instead figures out the way to do it with the least amount of time and effort (5 minutes twice a week!).
Certainly, The 4-Hour Chef is not designed solely as a cookbook, but as an effective way to introduce (and challenge readers to) the principles of meta-learning and maximizing their efforts. After reading The 4-Hour Chef, one would have the basic knowledge needed to learn a language more quickly, ferment sauerkraut, shoot a 3-pointer in basketball, cook an eel, survive without power for several days, and more. Personally, I’m working on learning Italian to test out his ideas on language learning… I’ll keep you posted.
The other reason I like all of Tim’s books is that they focus on maximizing efficiency the necessary aspects of life (work, cooking, even fitness) so that one has more time for the really important things like time with family. As a busy mom with an increasingly busy blog, some of these tips are invaluable. I used a lot of the ideas from The 4-Hour Workweek in starting to write Wellness Mama so that it wouldn’t cut in to family time or other obligations and it has been tremendously helpful… The 4-Hour Chef offers a blueprint for being able to accomplish the same thing with cooking and other household jobs.
I definitely delve into the specifics of the ideas in The 4-Hour Chef in the video interview, but if you (like me) don’t love sitting through a video.. here are some quick tips from the book:
Quick Application Tips from 4HC
I’d recommend getting a copy of The 4-Hour Chef to see the details, but some of the helpful tips I found included:
- For Weight Loss: Consume 30 grams of (healthy) protein within 30 minutes of waking up for weight loss. This sounds simple but it actually affects hormone function and can make a big difference (plus, it gives a great boost of energy). I personally do this everyday and either eat grass fed meat, a can of wild caught salmon or tuna, eggs, or bulletproof protein powder (from this website) in a smoothie.
- Fitness: Do 5 minutes of kettlebell swings 2-3 times a week. This and T-Tapp are the only workouts I do anymore and I can even continue them while pregnant.
- Languages: Learn the most common 100 words first and then work up to the most used 1200 words. He offers some great resources, and I’ve found that some of his tips are really useful in teaching kids to read in English as well! (He gives the example that in English, the most used 25 words account for 33% of all printed materials… a good start!)
- Cooking: Master the basic principles of the three most used methods of cooking: braising, sautéing and cooking, and you can functionally cook practically any dish. For anyone who likes recipes as a starting point but hates long explanations for each step- his recipes are simple and can even be distilled to one sentence. He really focuses on recipes that are easy to understand and difficult to mess up.
- Random: Use these towels. Seriously. We got three of these for our wedding and I loved them but could never find them in any store to get more of them. When I saw them in the 4HC, I realized why… they are called Huck Towels or Surgical Towels and they work much better than regular kitchen towels! (never thought to check the hospital!)
Tim recommends a lot of resources in his interview, and a lot more in the book, but here are some specific ones that you might find useful:
- Stickk.com and Dietbet.com for help in sticking to goals like weight loss or learning a new skill
- Emailga.me for getting through emails quickly, as well as Boomerang and Nudgemail for email management
- The Michel Thomas method for language learning along with Vis-ed.com flash cards and DuoLingo.com for web translation
- Total Immersion for swimming
- Richard Feynman Video: “The Pleasure of Finding Things Out“
Tim’s Real Goal
One of Tim’s goals for The 4-Hour Chef, and one I completely share, is to create a lasting change in the way food is grown, prepared, and consumed in our world today. It is no secret that we (as a country and world) consume massive amounts of man-made junk food that are composed of processed ingredients from mon-crop farms that strip the soil and deplete the eco-system. It is also no secret that overall health is suffering as a result.
Tim’s goal is to create what he calls a “super-trend” of 20 million people to change the way food is grown and eaten in our world. Tim points out that 50% of independent farmers are set to retire in the next 10 years and that much of this farm land will be up for grabs. We, as consumers, are essentially voting with each item we purchase at the store and each meal we prepare (or don’t) what the future of our food system will be.
I absolutely share Tim’s encouragement to learn to prepare meals from whole, local foods as a way of not only supporting health, but supporting the future of our nation as well. Grow your own food… check out a farmers market… eat organic when you can.
Have you ever used the ideas of meta-learning to help learn or do something more quickly or efficiently? Tell me below!