How would you feel if you got the opportunity to interview your favorite author?
That’s how I felt one morning in October when I opened my inbox and saw a message from one of Tim’s assistants, inviting me to do an interview with him about his new book, The 4 Hour Chef.
Having read his other books, I was excited. Tim Ferriss is among my all-time favorite authors.
His two previous books, The 4 Hour Workweek and The 4 Hour Body both made it to #1 on the New York Times best seller list, major successes. I highly recommend both of them, they made a lasting impression on me.
Published today, his new book The 4 Hour Chef is a little bit different, and I’ll let Tim explain the details in his own words.
Why would I talk about cooking on this blog? Well, because cooking is one of those essential skills that can multiply your chances of succeeding on a diet or healthy eating plan.
The best meals are cooked at home and having the skills to make nutritious and healthy meals is not to be taken lightly.
Kris - Tim, you are a bestselling author of two books; The 4 Hour Work Week and The 4 Hour Body. Can you explain in a few words what these books are about, for those who are unfamiliar with your previous work?
Tim - The 4 Hour Workweek and The 4 Hour Body look primarily at how you can apply the 80/20 principle, so identifying the 20% of activities that produce 80% or more of the results.
Work, lifestyle, then physical performance and appearance enhancement, we could say. So, fat loss, muscle gain and swimming, jumping, etc. That is the unifying theme of the two.
Kris - Cooking is radically different from the topics you have become known for, what qualifies you to write a book about cooking?
Tim - Nothing whatsoever, that’s the best part. I’m a lifelong non-cook and my readers have asked me for a book on accelerated learning for 5 or 6 years because I tackle so many different skills like setting a world record in Tango, learning languages, kickboxing, etc.
This all happened very recently and so the 4 hour chef is a cookbook for all skills, disguised as a cookbook about food. It explains all of the tools that I used to learn how to cook last year and in doing so explains how you can learn anything from shooting a basketball 3-pointer to Spanish to Japanese.
Kris - Can you explain what makes this book different from all the other thousands of cookbooks out there?
Tim - There are a few things. First, it’s just more fun to read, there are Calvin and Hobbes cartoons, supermodels and more. It’s fun.
Second, I’m a lifelong non-cook, so I looked at all these cookbooks that had no logical progression, no logical organization and rather than write a book that is easy for a chef to write, I wrote a book that removes all the failure points that lead people to quit cooking.
Third, this is really a book for people who don’t buy cookbooks and I talk about survival training, trips to Japan, Calcutta and lesson learned from Okinawa. Also things that people can apply even if they never make a single dish in the book.
Kris - There are some rather interesting passages in the book, for example how to cook fish in a bathroom sink and how to turn a garbage can into a cooking device. Did you try all these methods yourself?
Tim - Yeah, I tried everything myself. That’s part of the reason it took me so long to write. I don’t ask my readers to do anything that I won’t try myself.
We actually cut 250 pages from the book. I had people try them and even if 1 person completely failed I removed it from the book.
For instance, I cooked the two Michelin star fish in the bathroom sink at a hotel in Chicago. I used the iron in the closet afterwards to sear it, to get a nice crust on it and then I got the wine from the mini-bar and had a nice little meal, cooked in the bathroom sink.
It was this dish I bought 2 hours earlier at one of the top restaurants in Chicago and a few floors down in the same hotel so I was able to compare the two.
Kris - I’m terrible at cooking myself and have a real hard time understanding cookbooks. I’ve always gotten the impression that you have to have quite a lot of experience to be able to understand these books and I’ve usually given up on them.
I take it that the 4 hour chef is different and appropriate for those who have absolutely no cooking skills to begin with?
Tim - Absolutely, I had to start there as well and like most people I had picked up cookbooks before. There was a lot of French, you had to buy 3K dollars worth of equipment before you got started and a lot of headaches and hassle.
What I did before writing this book is I polled 500 thousand Facebook and Twitter followers and asked them why they put cookbooks down. I didn’t really care why they picked them up, I cared about why they put them down.
I analyzed the results using virtual assistants and spotted patterns and then removed all of those things from the book.
So, it’s fine for people who have never used a knife properly for cooking, who have maybe 15-20 minutes to spend twice a week on experimenting with things.
Kris - Are the meals and cooking methods directly related to the slow carb diet [The diet from The 4 Hour Body] or does the book cover how to cook any type of meal?
Tim - The techniques in the book apply to any type of meal but most of the recipes are slow-carb diet compliant, so people should lose a lot of body fat without ever thinking about it or being hungry.
The cheat day meals are really intense and over the top. A lot of them make cookies but we also have the TurBacon, which is a quail inside a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey inside a pig.
If you want to get aggressive, I have things like that. I did experiments, for instance, where I ate Ben & Jerry’s Vermonster, which is a bucket of ice cream with bananas and brownies and cookies and whipped cream. It’s 15.000 calories and 500 grams of fat. I had a competition with a bodybuilder to eat it in 20 minutes.
Then I did a Food-A-Thon the next day for another 15.000 calories, and then using Ultrasound I measured lower body fat than before starting. How I used biochemical tricks, supplements, things like that to pull that kind of stuff off is also part of the book.
Kris - Can you explain what meta-learning is, one of the main themes in your book?
Tim - Meta-learning is the skill of learning skills. It is the true recipe of the book and a I wanted to answer the question “is there a single blueprint, a single recipe you can apply to any skill to learn it in, say, half the time it would usually take?”
So you can apply it to physical skills like swimming and kickboxing to factual skills like memorizing things like a deck of cards. Meta-learning is the blueprint I’ve tested on all these various skills that works.
It ranges from deconstruction to selection of material, like an 80/20 analysis, sequencing, putting them in the right order, like the proper off-swing.
Then we got cramming, the ways of cramming, frequency and then coding, where we take really slippery stuff and tie it to things we already know so we can accelerate faster.
Kris - What are some of the things you have managed to master yourself using these learning methods?
Tim - Tango, Argentine Tango. I went from my first lesson to the world championships and set a world record after 5 and a half months. My language learning, I’ve refined it over time. I actually failed at learning Spanish for the first few years that I studied it and concluded that I was bad at languages.
Until figuring out a better way to do things and learned to speak and write Japaneese fluently in less than a year. Did the same with Mandarin Chinese 6 months later, then German.
After that I tackled Spanish again in Argentina and got to the advanced text level from the university of Buenos Aires.
Swimming, basketball, cooking and hopefully some day Icelandic, we’ll see.
The book launched today and you can get it from Amazon here: The 4 Hour Chef.
If you want to read more about it, check out the book’s official website.
I just ordered a copy for myself and can’t wait to read it.
Here’s the official trailer for the book: