Tim Ferriss Interview on The 4-Hour Chef



“‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you.” — Tim Ferris

Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Chef is a smash hit   I had the pleasure of talking with Tim Ferriss about his new book.

The 4-Hour Chef is more than a cookbook — it’s a cookbook for life.

As you may know, Tim Ferriss it the best-selling author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour BodyThe 4-Hour Chef is along the same lines, but now Tim takes things to a new level and a new domain.

The subtitle of The 4-Hour Chef says it all: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life.

The 4-Hour Chef is really a cookbook for skills and a meta-approach for speed learning.

If you are into rapid learning, this book will help you crack the code and take your learning ability to new levels.

The 4-Hour Chef is a “Cookbook for Learning New Skills”

The book is really about learning how to learn anything more effectively, and how to savor your life, a bite a time, a meal at a time, or an experience at a time.

Learning how to cook is a great scenario for the book because it’s something we can easily relate to and apply in our everyday life.

Cooking is a topic that can be potentially intimidating or overwhelming, and Tim shows you how to chop it down to size, which is one of the keys to learning faster and more effectively.

Along the way, you learn how to truly taste your food, maybe even for the first time, and in turn, your life.

It’s about living your life in a high-definition way.

What Questions Do I Ask Tim to Reveal some Insight and Actions?

The 4-Hour Chef is also full of surprising insights.  One of the things that surprised me the most is the minimum number of tools you need on hand in the kitchen to make some of the greatest meals on Earth. (It’s smaller than you might think.)

In the interview, I ask Tim five questions:

  1. What is the story you use the most? (we all have them, the favorite story that we use to illustrate our core messages.)
  2. What’s one great technique that people can use to instantly change the quality of their life?
  3. What did you learn that surprised you in making the 4-hour chef?
  4. How do you make time, when you absolutely don’t have time?
  5. What is a simple way that anyone can start to experiment more with their life style?

I really wanted the readers of Sources of Insight to get some insight that you could use today.

Enjoy the interview.

Right click to download the Interview with Tim Ferris (MP3)

Transcript of JD Interviewing Tim Ferris About the 4-Hour Chef (the Cookbook for “Skills”)


[begin transcript]

[0:0:01] JD Meier: So hey everybody. This is JD here from Sources of Insight and we have Tim Ferriss in the house and Tim as hopefully everybody knows is the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and now he has got a brand new book called The 4-Hour Chef and I’ve got some questions for Tim. But before I dive in, Tim, I would like you to tell us all about your new book.

[0:00:27] Tim Ferriss: Well, the new book is – it’s a bit of an unusual at first glance topic for me because I was a – and I am a lifelong non-cook. But for the last four, five years, what my readers have been asking me for is a book on learning, how to dissect skills, how to double, triple learning speed.

[0:00:47] So I spent the last year and a half really diving into that, traveling around the world, meeting some of the world’s fastest learners but the – it’s kind of similar to Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance in the sense that this is a cookbook of skills disguised as a cookbook for food. So that’s the vehicle through which I explain a lot of the principles.

[0:01:08] But the ultimate recipe of the book is this process of meta-learning and which is – it’s something that you can impose on learning natural languages, learning how to swim, shoot a basketball, marksmanship, but also cooking and I thought cooking because it involves the senses and because it’s something that affects your experience of food, even if you never make a single dish in the book. It would be a really fun skill to try to deconstruct especially since they’re so – there’s such a deluge of information out there about it yet most people still don’t care.

[0:01:42] JD Meier: And that’s what I really like that you did is that you took something that everybody can relate to, some people actually have a fear of, some people have past experience and you help people get over that. But even more importantly is the fact that it really is about learning for life. It’s about learning how to speed up your abilities and I really love the fact that you give people a recipe for results beyond the kitchen. I thought that was fantastic and now which actually brings me to my first question which is, “Why do you do what you do?” You do a bunch of crazy things, a bunch of crazy experiments. But really what drives you? Why do you do what you do?

[0:02:19] Tim Ferriss: You know, I do what I do because of I think the influence in a few particular people. The first – well, gosh, there are so many. But the – I will give a few. The first is John Buxton who was my wrestling coach in high school and I really have fairly mediocre raw materials for wrestling for a lot of reasons.


[0:02:40] I overheat really easily because I was born premature and have lung issues. The list goes on. But Mr. Buxton has not only – the wrestling coach at St. Paul’s High School in New Hampshire but also incredible fundraiser. So he built the endowment from something like 50 to 500 million during his tenure there. He’s really good at systems thinking and focusing on your strengths.

[0:03:06] So rather than trying to patchwork fix your weaknesses, really multiplying your strength and focusing on those and leveraging on them and he really took that team which was full of mediocre raw materials and built a phenomenal team that work together and every single person who left that team ended up doing incredible things and they took that confidence with them.

[0:03:29] I want to have that impact on other people. I mean it was really an inflection point for me and I just carried it with me. So to the extent that I can be the human guinea pig. We tried all the crazy stuff that pushes the envelope and then give the CliffsNotes to other people. I wanted to allow other people to have that same type of experience.

[0:03:49] JD Meier: So I love that. Yeah. So what I’m hearing is that you really love to be able to replicate success. But even more than that, make it exponential. But even better, make it available to everyone. Basically bring out the best out of everybody that you can.

[0:04:03] Tim Ferriss: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I really want people to believe with this particular book, which I think is in many ways is the book I’m proudest of of the three. You know, believe that they can become potentially world class in one or two things per year, not one or two things per lifetime, and that just fundamentally changes how you view everything, how you teach your kids. It’s really I think just the Archimedes lever for everything else. So yes, agreed.

[0:04:35] JD Meier: I love that. OK. So now, I need to ask you. What’s the story that you use the most? So we all have stories. We all have a favorite story that we use to illustrate our core message. But what’s the story that you use the most?

[0:04:49] Tim Ferriss: Oh yeah, this is easy. So the story that I use the most and a story that my mom kind of likes as well is when I was in kindergarten, I refused to learn the alphabet. I was really stubborn, didn’t see the point and Mrs. Bevin at the time wasn’t very pleased with that and she forced me to eat soap which was a big moment and I got to first grade and Mrs. Bevin said, “Oh, he’s never going to survive first grade. He’s behind. He’s retarded,” whatever. She was not a very supportive teacher.


[0:05:19] Then I had Mrs. Vinsky and Mrs. Vinsky was great. She took no BS. But she was an excellent teacher and within the first week she realized I decided I wasn’t going to learn the alphabet. Just I had refused and she came over to me at one point and she kind of leaned over at my desk and she said, “Tim, you realize if you learn the alphabet, you can read books, any book that you want,” and I was just dumbfounded. I was like, “Oh my god. Really? I can read books?” and it sort of got back to that starting with why position. She gave me a good reason to do what she requested of me and I picked it up in two days and then off to the races.

[0:05:58] So I just thought that even at the first grade level, perhaps especially the first grade level, that was an illustration of expert teaching. So that’s my story.

[0:06:10] JD Meier: I love that. Now I really want to give something to the folks around at Sources of Insight and so my next question is, “What’s one great technique that people can use to instantly change the quality of their life?” What’s one great technique that people can use where they can instantly go out and change the quality of their life?

[0:06:29] Tim Ferriss: Oh, OK. I might cheat a little here and give two fast ones but the first one just because I think it illustrates so many principles at once is to test Email Game. It’s actually a new website, and what it does is it prevents you from looking at the inbox and allows you to process email in about half the time and also provides a countdown timer and it’s just I think a perfect illustration in an over-gamified world of how to use human psychology, like innate human, evolved psychology to help us as opposed to handicap us.

[0:07:07] So I would highly encourage that and then the second one, I won’t go into great detail but 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up for a host of reasons. But my dad went from for instance 5 pounds of average monthly fat loss to 18.75 in the first weeks. Four weeks of making that one change. So those would be two fast ones.

[0:07:28] JD Meier: Oh, those are great and that those stats are pretty insane. So what did you learn that surprised you in making The 4-Hour Chef?

[0:07:38] Tim Ferriss: What surprised me and I don’t know why it surprised me. But what surprised me is how similar the systems thinking is at the highest level of any field. So you take the best coach in basketball, the best coach in let’s just say tactical firearms instruction. You take the best coach in natural language learning and you put them all in a room and they’re going to have so much in common to talk about.

[0:08:07] It just really blew my mind and the other thing was at the highest levels of cooking let’s say. How minimalist most of these chefs look at their toolkit as and in the sense that when I went to the best restaurant, the most highly rated restaurant of all of India, this is the kitchen and chatted with the exec chef. He had a $20 Victorinox knife that you could buy in Walmart here. He had two stainless steel skillets that were just beat to hell and that you could buy them for $20 here, like any Chinese grocery store and used a blue huck towel as everything including potholder and that was pretty much it and this guy created absolute magic.

[0:08:55] So for me – and I think I have many people who have the pot set that never gets used, who has maybe a block full of knives that never get used, which makes cooking intimidating. It doesn’t need to be intimidating at all. You get a cast iron skillet, that you have in combo, some huck towels. Surgical lint-free huck towels are the best, side note, and you get me the Peltex fish turner for everything and you’re ready to rock and roll. That’s all you need. So those are a few of the things that really surprised me.

[0:09:28] JD Meier: I love your ability to really boil things down and really create that minimal tool belt. That’s awesome. So how do you make time when you absolutely don’t have time? There are so many people out there that just do not have time. It’s a crazy world. They’re overloaded. They’re overwhelmed. How do you make time when you absolutely don’t have time?

[0:09:49] Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I simply – the heuristic or model that I use at least and I find very pragmatic. So who knows? Maybe rightly or wrongly is to assume that if I don’t have time, I actually don’t have priorities. So the only constructive approach that I’ve been able to find to that is if I feel overwhelmed and that I don’t have time is to assume that it’s because I don’t have clearly-defined priorities, not because I don’t have enough time.


[0:10:20] The way that I have systematized that, which I really find is one of the most critically important things that most people could do if they’re not doing it already is to schedule a regular 80-20 analysis of their business and of their lives and that means that let’s say once every two weeks on a Friday afternoon, you have a reminder pop up and it says 80-20 analysis and that means you go through and you look at 20 percent of activities in people that are creating 80 percent or more of the positive outcomes in your life.


[0:10:50] Then you look at the 20 percent of activities in people that are creating 80 percent of the negative outcomes in your life or emotions or consuming 80 plus percent of your time and then you create a to-do list but just as importantly, a not-to-do list. I find that regular practice just like meditation or yoga or anything else to be extremely, extremely valuable.

[0:11:15] JD Meier: That was great. Basically if I don’t have time, I don’t have priorities. Schedule an 80-20 analysis and know your not-to-do list. That was great.

[0:11:23] Tim Ferriss: Yeah.

[0:11:25] JD Meier: So this is actually my last question but I think it’s a very key one as a lot of folks are thinking about their life and finding their way forward and what really matters to them. But my question is this. What’s a simple way that anyone can start to experiment more with their lifestyle?

[0:11:45] Tim Ferriss: The simple way that people can start to experiment with their lifestyle, I will give two quick tips that work together. So the first is because we’re talking to people who are sort of early adopters and innovators, would be to actually play around with an app that I’m involved with called Lift and Lift was incubated by Evan and Biz behind Twitter and it is a simple, simple minimalist app for behavioral change and it’s based on good science and it’s extremely minimalism, which I find to be fascinating. It’s a good study because they worked very hard to strip away as many features as possible.


[0:12:23] It’s the only thing that has gotten me to floss regularly. In my entire life, everyone has always told me, doctors, mothers, you name it, to floss regularly. I want to do it. I have never been able to do it before this app and what’s closely related to that is to view any changes and experiments as two week-trials. Two-week trials. Not intimidating, not permanent. Very, very lightweight, two-week trials. You don’t ever have to do it again if you stop after two weeks and I think that those two things combined, as simple as they may seem, are really highly impactful and could surprise people.

[0:13:06] JD Meier: I love it. I’m a fan of simple and I also like the fact that you’ve got software and codifying practice and I’m a big fan of minimalism and I’m a believer in getting science on your side and nothing beats getting science on your side when it comes to behavior change.

[0:13:20] Now that really was my last question. But I want to make sure that everybody is very clear, knows how to go and get your book and I want to point out that I’ve actually read your book twice. As soon as I got it, I didn’t put it down. I went all the way through and it is a big book. But I love the depth. I love the insight. I love the actionable, prescriptive guidance that you have throughout the entire book. I love the fact that you share how we really can conquer our fears, gain new abilities and really become a master of life in multiple domains. I mean that’s just – it’s fantastic.

[0:13:54] Tim Ferriss: Thank you.

[0:13:55] JD Meier: But I want to make sure everybody knows how to go out and get your book.

[0:13:58] Tim Ferriss: Yeah, I appreciate it. Yeah. The book is – it’s going to be a fascinating launch as well. It’s the first major acquisition of Amazon Publishing. You can get it in print and digital. But it’s being boycotted by Barnes and Noble for instance. So Amazon is the best place to get it. I designed it with print in mind just because two-page spreads can be used together. But the digital would be great. There is a – I do have an offer for people if they’re interested, which is if they get three books, three copies of the print book, which is – it’s 1500 colored photos. We got Calvin and Hobbes. It has got marksmanship, supermodels, everything, something for everyone.

[0:14:34] But if they get three copies, I’m doing an exclusive Q and A, a live Q and A for an hour or two for people who do that after the launch week and all they need to do is buy three print copies, send the Amazon receipt to 3books@4hourchef.com and then they will get an invite. So I’m very excited to see how people respond to this and I’m thrilled you took the time to read the book and it’s certainly the one I’m proudest of the three so far.

[0:15:05] JD Meier: And I just have to say again I mean just beautiful job on the book. It really is a work of art and I love your ability to blend science, bring it to life and most importantly help people get great results. I really want to thank you for your time today. I love your insight. I love your perspectives. I love the fact that you’ve given people very insightful, imaginable things they can go do. But really I love the fact that you – you know, that we got to spend the time here today.

[0:15:33] Tim Ferriss: I really appreciate it and just to end on a Microsoft note, my hope is that after people read this book, not only will they be able to pick out a few of the things that they’ve conceded they will never be able to do or wish they could be good at but accepted they will never be good at and actually tackle but that perhaps like Charles Simonyi, they will be able to say, “Whatever you can do, I can do meta,” and I would love for more people to get to that point.

[0:16:05] JD Meier: Oh, that’s great. Thanks a lot. Take care.

[0:16:07] Tim Ferriss: OK. Thanks JD. Talk to you soon. Bye-bye.

[End of transcript]

Get the Book

Here is a direct link to get Tim’s book:

The 4-Hour Chef (Amazon)

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  1. […] on The 4-Hour Chef Posted by Code Monkey on November 20, 2012 My interview with Tim Ferris on The 4-Hour Chef is now live.  Tim Ferris it the best-selling author of The 4-Hour Work Week and The 4-Hour […]

  2. I listened to the podcast and read some reviews on this book and I’m not going to read it. From these I think there ins’t really anything he talks about in his book that would not generate a “duh” moment for people coming like me from cultures in which cooking is just natural (think China, India, Southern-Europe…).

    Of course you don’t need tons of equipement to cook, of course your set of pots if used (so are your knives), of course cooking is not intimidating, of course cooking in the evening does not need to take lots of time, etc.

    I did read his 4-weeks work-week and, honestly, most of its content was either a “re” of (for instance) the concepts you already talk about J.D. (prioritization, top items for the day, week, month; energy management, etc) and/or were not applicable to most people’s job. Yes if you’re a free lance consultant or book writer this can work. But not for the layman corporate employee.

  3. Hi JD .. what a great interview – and thanks for giving us such a valuable audio here on the blog – which we can dip into as and when we feel like it.

    I enjoyed your chat and it was fun hearing your voice! I’ve seen a few posts on his book … and will keep an eye open for it … unless it doesn’t hit the shelves as such …

    The story to illustrate our objective is an essential component of our entrepreneurial skills …

    Thanks very much – I’ll be back to re-read and listen to it .. Happy Thanksgiving to you and the family today … cheers Hilary

  4. @ Clay — I really enjoyed talking with Tim. He drives a lot of things from data, so his insights can be surprising.

    @ Olivier — It’s not really about cooking — it’s a book about rapid learning (so be careful not to judge a book by its title.)

    What I like most in the book is the surprising data. There are lots of data points and distinctions that can help with anything from learning a new language to learning how to swim most effectively.

    @ Hilary — What’s really refreshing about the book is that it’s thick and dense. It’s great to read something that really has a lot of insights and actionable things to do, from cover to cover.

    @ Siddartha — I think Tim has a way to boil impossible down to the possible … he exposes “how the magic trick was done.”

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  8. I love how Tim Ferris explained his 80/20 analysis technique. I need to apply this technique this Friday. Great interview JD. I love how quick and to the point it was. I didn’t feel like I had to waste my time to get to the good stuff. 🙂

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