on 7 December 2012
The book itself is very, very good. It's well written, and there's enough advice and challenges to keep you reading (and cooking!). HOWEVER, this book despite being labelled as 'UK Edition' is written for the USA market. Courgettes are still Zucchinnis, Aubergines are Eggplants etc. One of the big selling points of the book is that you don't have to spend a fortune to get the kit needed to make these great meals. The VERY FIRST item on the very first recipe is a Logic LCC3 skillet combo - rrp $30. Great, I thought, that's pretty cheap just need to find somewhere in the UK that sells it.... nope, only available in the US. Amazon don't ship the item to the UK, and the only similar products I can find here are £75+. So much for UK edition!
The actual recipes and techniques the book teaches are very good, so it's a shame I can't help but feel a bit cheated. As far as I can see the only difference from the US version is that the price on the back cover is in pounds instead of dollars.
on 31 January 2013
I was very excited about this book as it was supposed to be about learning. I have never been very good at cooking so I thought this would be a good time to learn something about that too.
The learning bits are interesting but very short and random. The whole book is very disorganized and full of random info on this and that. This is not really a book about learning, it's just like any other cooking book with very random stuff here and there.
The most disappointing thing is probably that this was supposed to be a cook book that doesn't require you to buy a lot of new stuff to start cooking, and the recipes were supposed to be simple and easy to follow. I have a fairly well equipped kitchen and a very large grocery store nearby but this book is full of kitchen stuff that I don't own (and that are very expensive to acquire) and the recipes are full of ingredients that I can not buy anywhere that I know. So after I realized that and skipped the cooking parts, I didn't really find any good or useful info about learning in this book at all.
Oh and about the UK edition.. The only difference to the US edition seems to be that the book is not a hard cover. I don't see how that makes it a UK edition.
I have been an avid reader and follower of Tim's blog and videos since 2007 and I really liked especially 4HB, and will be reading his blog in the future too, but this book was quite disappointing.
on 23 April 2013
Overall, I'm glad I bought this book (though wish I hadn't got the kindle version as it's first and foremost a recipe book!) as I learned some new things from it I probably wouldn't have picked up elsewhere. However I don't really think it lives up to the claims that it makes and my experience of the recipes was disappointing.
The book consists of five sections:
1) Meta-learning - about Tim's method of learning things. I am interested in education and found this quite interesting with some great examples, though it certainly leaves lots of questions unanswered. There's less than I expected about his process of learning to cook - there's a bit, but not the sort of detail I was expecting. Likewise, with language learning, it talks about reaching a moderate conversational level in a language and very little about how to move from that stage to real fluency.
2) The Domestic - this is the main part of the book. After a rather US-centric list of equipment and store cupboard essentials to buy, it consists of a plan for learning to cook consisting of 14 lessons each taking about 20 minutes prep with the idea that you do two of the lessons each week, including hosting a dinner party once a month. The general concept is a really good one but I felt it could have been executed much better. I've cooked half a dozen or so recipes and generally haven't been wildly impressed - not sure I'd cook any of them again. There was a bit of a studenty feel about them (but with sometimes quite expensive ingredients!) and the first recipe had a step missing which is pretty much inexcusable in a book billing itself for novice cooks. The recipes also follow Tim's Slow Carb diet, references to which abound throughout the book, so don't expect pasta or the like. I had to skip quite a few of the 'lessons' due to a combination of pregnancy dietary restrictions and a shellfish allergy, so unless you are pretty much omnivorous, be prepared for that possibly being an issue - less of a problem with a normal recipe book than this one where the recipes follow on from eachother as lessons. On the plus side, the recipes are in metric and I didn't find the ingredients a problem as they can be in American recipes books. The lessons are punctuated with sections on all sorts of topics from knife skills to different types of tea. There's quite a geeky feel about these and the book feels very dense with information - I learned some useful things from some of these extra sections and they made it worth buying the book. There was also some good stuff in them that I already knew from cookery courses I had been on etc. but which I imagine that most people might not know.
3) The Wild - this is a section about survival and cooking things you have caught yourself in the wild. Although there were some interesting tidbits, I found this part too specific to the US to really be all that useful (and all that talk of guns, yikes!) as the types of animals etc. you get there are totally different from those here. If you're interested in this, I'm sure you're better off buying a UK-specific book on the topic.
4) The Scientist - a section about molecular gastronomy. I haven't tried anything from this section, but it looks like a very accessible intro to the topic with stuff you can try at home.
5) The Professional - this section is essentially about making meals an experience. It reminded me a lot of The Surreal Gourmet series of books. Again, I haven't tried any of the recipes in this section - things like cauliflower creme brulee, combinations like oyster and kiwi, and roses made from bacon. There's certainly stuff that might be fun to try if you were in the mood - if I had thought more of the earlier recipes in the book, I might have been more likely to give them a go.
on 22 October 2013
I bought this because the concept-using cookery as a starting point for teaching any skill-was interesting enough.
A lot of ground is covered. First, the good points:
The recipes and anecdotes very readable, and by breaking cookery down into various chemical processes (i.e. waffles and sauerkraut=fermentation, Nutella powder and beef jerky=dehydration) and kitchen or food-based skills (using a knife properly, cutting your veg more efficiently, dressing a carcass) it gives you areas where you can pick up and learn something tangible to improve your performance in the kitchen.
This approach also uses cooking as a medium to learn other things, which is a nice use of "meta-learning"
The "lessons", which are recipes broken down into photo-essays, are pretty good, showing what the end result should look like, troubleshooting any difficult or important bits. Showing you how to prep and make seared scallops or test by sight how well-cooked your meat is makes the visual impact of this book worthwhile. A great many cookbooks include gratuitous photos because people WON'T make the dishes and just want eye candy
The miscellaneous chapters (how to memorize a deck of cards, how to host dinner parties, the key characters of Japanese) are stand-out and useful.
The not-so-good points:
The emphasis on "gear". Yes, cooking demands you be precise in terms of ingredients but why list brand-name spatulas, peelers, cloths and sauce spoons? Is he taking out ads in the book? doesn't really detract, but when you list all these products, it gives the impression that these are vital parts of the cooking. This is not the case for minor kitchen implements.
While some things are of notable quality, not all are and it detracts from making cookery easy to learn.
The things omitted: he has a page-long digression on using the hormone desmopressin as a learning aid and never mentions anything about this again. As food and learning are the key themes of this book, the author could have combined them with a chapter on diets for mental performance. Otherwise, quite an unnecessary excerpt.
The links, in a print book, to pages on his website. Why? If it was that important, why not include it, or save it for the ebook edition?
The fairly pointless points:
One lesson teaches how to make sous-vide in your hotel sink. Another chapter talks about eating 14000 calories in 20 minutes and then regurgitating it. In context, the chapter also discusses how to minimise weight gain when eating your favourite foods, but i can't help thinking a better recommendation would have been alternatives which don't stimulate you to eat unhealthy amounts?
One recipe, Coconut Cauliflower Curry Mash, is an alternative recipe for mashed potatoes containing coconut and cauliflower, which seems like an exercise in pointlessly over-complicating.
There are tea and music recommendations with every recipe. Tea is not paired with food like wine! Music? a personal choice, but conversation is better.
Some more good points:
The non-recipe stuff, which includes how to become a VIP at restaurants, how to build a shelter in the wild, make a fire, shoot a 3-pointer, and tie some pretty good knots, all round up to make a worthwhile and interesting how-to book. Ferriss has produced something pretty rare in making a guidebook that is practical, engagingly written and manages to accomplish it's avowed purpose. While I haven't yet made every recipe or learnt every lesson, it has helped me produce some dishes, learn differently and be more engaging and interesting at meals.
I recommend it to anyone who eats, learns, eats and learns at the same time, and wants to get better at either.
on 11 December 2013
I can't believe that I have only just discovered Tim Ferriss.
This guy's work needs to be every school, college, univeristy and work place.
I really enjoyed reading the whole book. At first, I was put off by the title, but believe me, put that aside and read the book.
The book isn't just about cooking, it's about learning and how to learn. Tim leads a very rich life and he shares many stories which I thought, brought great balance to the book.
I now read everything on this blog and will be reading his other books over the X-Mas period.
on 2 December 2012
This is a really interesting but flawed booked. It really needed proof reading as there is a huge mistake in the first recipe, which is comical as Tim spends a lot of time talking about how bad other cook books are.
What I really liked is the bit on how Tim approach the process of learning - and this is worth the cost of the book in itself. I think that most people could use the first bit and Tim's examples and take what he talks about cooking and adjust to meet their own needs.
However, when it comes to the actually how to be an amazing chef it fails to really deliver - trouble is that what worked for Tim, may not work for you; it's based on a sample size of one.
Other downsides are Tim's cross promotion of his 4-Hour Body book and his slow carb diet (which loses credibility due to Tim saying: absolutely no drinking carbs, apart from red wine (which Tim confesses a passion for - I suspect that if Tim was passionate about doughnuts they'd be OK to eat too))
In the end of the day, it's reads nicely and the first bit is worth the price of the book - just take the cooking bit with a pinch of salt.
on 21 January 2013
My experience of this book is like meeting an interesting stranger in a hotel restaurant and sharing a meal and drinks and a cognac in the bar with him.
At first you find him very interesting - he has a wide knowledge on a variety of things, learning, languages, cooking:
Some of the stuff you know about or had similar experiences so it validates what you are saying; some of the stuff you think from your own experience - that's not true, or that won't work, but you don't say anything even if you violent disagree with it. Some of it is of no relevance to you and you find boring. But some of it is interesting and you think I'll note that down and follow it up
And then you think "OMG the guys a psychopath" when he starts talking about killing and skinning rabbits, swinging chickens to break their necks etc.
And then you think "OMG this guy is going to go on for ever and ever".
Some of the things I'll follow up
splitting cooking into prep and pick up
whisking the wine with a hand-blender to aerate it
The lemon squeezer
using herbs in my omlettes
change in the way I'll poach eggs
slight change in the way that I do omelettes (from the Jamie Oliver method)
killing lobsters (when I feel rich).
Buying the Perfect pickler set to make sauerkraut (which I already make)
Putting herbs and spices into water to get a feel for them
Some of the things I disagree with
learning Knife skills is difficult - Norman Weinstein book/DVD Mastering Knife skills make it easy.
You can get around with the most used 200 words of English or any language. In the list of 100 words you won't find coffee.
The graph showing his speed in learning languages doesn't prove his system works. Its well recognized that Spanish is far easier to learn (particular in California) than Japanese and even without formalising a system you would have learnt something with each new language. Now if he had taken a year to learn Spanish, which is the easiest language to learn according to the FSI, and then 8 weeks to learn Japanese (the hardest language) then that would have been impressive
Some of the things not too convinced
You need a Dutch oven - surely it is cheaper (at least in the UK) to use a slow cooker.
Some of the things that didn't interest me (living in Eastbourne)
killing bears with a bow and arrow
making nitrogen ice cream
If Tim really intended to write a book about how to learn a new skill or how to cook, he's failed miserably. As an entertaining evening in a hotel room with a few glasses of wine it works magnificently.
on 12 April 2013
This is not a book about cooking per se, but rather what you learn through cooking and eating. This is not necessarily the book to teach you how to cook, but it is a book about Tim Ferris and how he learned to cook. The book is unashamedly about Tim but it is easy to read, very engaging and I did learn a thing or two that have modified the way I prep and cook food. The book is entertaining if nothing else.
Other reviews have made this point, but it is worth repeating for Amazon UK customers. This book is written for the American reader. You need to be conversant with arugula, zucchini, collard greens, beef short ribs etc and find the UK name. You will not be able to source many of his recommended utensils and ingredients either as he lists websites that do not ship to the UK. If Tim Ferris has the inclination to commission someone in the UK to research and edit the book to source available produce, this would be much appreciated and I would rate five star.
on 29 January 2013
As a die hard Tim Ferriss fan I was eagerly anticipating his latest installment in the 4-Hour series.
The 4-Hour Chef did not disappoint.
Ferriss looks at rapid learning, using cooking as the backbone example. The book shows you how to deconstruct a skill into basic manageable components that can be applied to all manor of things.
Whilst the recipes themselves may seem random they have been thoughtfully arranged in to ease you into new techniques, pushing you out of your comfort zone whilst giving you a generous margin for error.
It's worth noting this book is perhaps 1/3rd cooking etc, 1/3rd learning skills in general and 1/3rd random Tim Ferriss stories, revelations and insights. Whilst that may sound like fancy wording for "waffle" these insights are what may reading Tim Ferriss such a joy to me.
No other book (or other media for that matter) has introduced me to so many other experiences and products. Besides a whole lot of useful (and relatively inexpensive) cooking equipment I have a plethora of additional reading material, drinks, gadgets, music, food and life hacks to explore.
In short, buy the book. You won't regret it.
on 22 November 2012
I don't see how anyone can honestly review this tome of a book 2 days after it's been released. Even with speed reading and skimming it'd be so difficult and you'd miss so much that it'd be a pointless exercise.
I don't own 4HWW or 4HB, in fact I thought the guy was some kind of con, spitting out books of the improve your in . So why did I buy it? A few weeks ago I chanced upon a YouTube video of Mr Ferriss giving a lecture, some of which rang true, other items made me question and explore for myself. I've always had an interest in cooking, but while I find recipes pointlessly constraining, the jump to how to progress past simple tweaking of a dish isn't really easily available without learning the entire subject A-Z. I don't have time to study an entire cuisine to learn what works, I need ideas on how to model the problem and tips & tricks that produce results.
This book (so far) constantly astounds me with the diverse range of material that is really interesting (I'm an 'outdoors' person, albeit a very urban one, and still find food for thought in these sections), I won't list these as I feel it detracts from the experience of discovering them yourself. In short, I can't imagine anyone for whom this book isn't a riveting read.
If you're the proud owner of a Kindle, and wondering if you should save a few quid and a couple of days, don't. Get the printed version, the entire book is full colour and any change to layout would ruin the delivery.
It sounds a bit fan-boi (I'm moving in that direction, reluctantly!) but I'll likely pick up a hard-back version for reference and abuse the paper-back for first read.