Author, entrepreneur, and hacker extraordinaire Tim Ferriss has taken his obsession for optimizing just about everything in life to a new daunting area: the kitchen. Perfect timing for those of us celebrating Thanksgiving, right? His new book The 4-Hour Chef is about mastering cooking and much of life beyond it.
Read below for a Q&A with Ferriss himself.
And not only do we have some great insights from Ferriss, we have 20 books to give away to the RunKeeper community!
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RunKeeper: What inspired you to tackle the subject of cooking for your latest book? How does it play off insights you share in your two previous titles?
Tim Ferriss: I was a culinary idiot my whole life, which was part of the reason I wanted to tackle cooking—it was something I was terrible at. Both my previous books came from shared problems with uncommon solutions. Too much email, too much fat, not enough time to do anything about it. With cooking, everyone has the desire to be good at it but their enthusiasm seems to hit a brick wall, myself included. I set out to figure out how to get over it.
RK: How do you go from not even liking cooking to mastering it? How can this be applied to other things, like fitness?
TF: As they say in one of my favorite books, “bird by bird.” First I went through and studied all I could about the subject, not just from books but from the masters. What I realized was that there were all sorts of artificial barriers. Cooking was made to be hard, instead of creative. Then I realized that cooking wasn’t made to be done in a vacuum. It’s not about ingredients, it’s a way of living. That’s what inspired me to pursue some of the more enjoyable chapters to write in the WILD section—which are about getting in touch with the world around you.
RK: You’ve made a name for yourself in lifestyle hacking—what are some cooking hacks we can expect to see in this book?
How to cook Michelin 2 star sea bass in your bathroom sink. How to go from burning scrambled eggs to cooking Osso Buco. Everything from how to taste to how to cut to how to enjoy the time you spend in the kitchen.
RK: Using technology in a hyper-efficient and breakthrough way played a big role in The 4-Hour Work Week. What part does tech play in your exploration of cooking and eating?
TF: If you’re not using the right tools, you’re going to be expending unnecessary effort. I spent a lot of time testing and comparing and trying all the tools out there. I’m not a fan of tech for tech’s sake so often times I find that the low tech tools are the best (for instance, how to have a clam back using a garbage can) but what I look for are the tools that give you a competitive advantage. In the book I don’t just say what you need to do but also what gear makes it the easiest to do.
RK: Your books have been all about pushing the envelope and intense experimentation. Let’s say someone isn’t interested in, say, cooking a sea bass in the bathroom sink. What are the key things they can take away from your book?
TF: How to learn, period. This is the book for people who don’t buy cookbooks…and that includes people who don’t plan to cook. To me, cooking is a metaphor. If you can take this thing that is supposed to be difficult, that you’ve never been able to do, and by focusing on a few simple leverage points, get to world class in a matter of weeks, then you can do anything. So I apply that mindset in the book to all sorts of subjects from languages to swimming to hunting. I hope people take away a passion for learning and a reminder to enjoy life.
RK: What happens if you spend five (not four) hours a week on something?
TF: By all means! The point of my philosophy is to eliminate needless time spent on things you don’t enjoy, so you can spend more time on the things you do enjoy. If cooking or fitness happen to be things you’re deeply passionate about, spend every waking hour on them. It just happens that most people don’t like spending every waking hour at the office or answering email.
What do you think RunKeepers? What are you looking to master? What tools do you need to get there?