I have been quite underwhelmed with Tim Ferris's The 4 Hour Chef. Although the book definitely provided a good starting point for becoming a cook, it just wasn't very substantial.
As I outlined in my NYE blog post, the book isn't necessarily about cooking, it's about a methodology to learn new skills. And it's a great methodology. The foundation of the methodology is DiSSS:
D - deconstruct. Break the activity into the smallest learnable chunks
S - select. Identify the 20% of use cases that give you 80% of the results you want, and work on those
S - sequence. Sequence the learnable chunks of the 20% to maximize learning
S - stakes. Set consequences for failing. See stickk.com
This a great methodology. And it works. I'm definitely using it in other aspects of my life, like team management and ultimate frisbee.
The problem with his book is that he presents himself as having gone from slob to chef over the course of a few months. He did. And that's great for him. But he literally dedicated his whole life to it for a few months, with the intent of profiting off of those months of concentrated work by selling the book later. He spoke with dozens of chefs, travelled the world to sample flavors, did a 48-hour cooking marathon, and purchased all kinds of cooking equipment. I still work the same 60-hours/week job that I have been, and I have spent maybe $50 on additional cooking supplies since starting the book.
So really, the problem here is an expectation management and perception problem. He has learned 99% of what there is to know about cooking, and sells you that vision going into the book. But if you follow his book through the 14 key guide meals, you'll be at just 10-20% of his skill level. Yes, the book helps you identify and learn the most important 20% as he outlined, but the book just leaves you wanting more. There's some great content and tips, but I've come to realize that the only way to get to where I want to be is practice and experimentation, one meal at a time. The 14 core meals, and 20+ additional meals just begin to scratch the surface of what's possible.
I'm still looking forward for new opportunities to expand my cooking horizons over the course of 2013. TJ and I have decided to make 2 new recipes a week for the rest of the year. We're going to finish all 14 from The 4 Hour Chef, but after that we're probably going to start choosing new recipes from new places.