Best-selling author Tim Ferriss is an avowed Evernote user who relied on Evernote as an essential tool to write his new book, The 4-Hour Chef. The book, a smartly-designed compendium of technique with corresponding recipes, posits that the act of mastering culinary fundamentals imparts the skills needed to master anything in life. Despite a hectic travel schedule, Ferriss took time out to answer some questions about his approach to cooking and also to share his recipe for the best scrambled eggs ever from the book.
Photo credit: Daniel Krieger
How did writing The 4-Hour Chef change your appreciation of eating and cooking?
Before writing The 4-Hour Chef (4HC), I hadn’t really tasted food. Back then, food was either good or bad, hot or cold, spicy or not. I was microwaving liquid egg whites in plastic (!) containers, for God’s sake. Now, I have a flavor vocabulary — I can pick out the subtleties: the cilantro or tarragon, the umami savoriness, or the lack of vinegar.
It’s like going from a 7″ black-and-white TV to HD. Before 4HC, much of my life was in black and white. The awareness you build in the kitchen and in related adventures affects everything. Life itself becomes high-definition. Even if you never cook after a week of experiments, that week can upgrade your eating for the rest of your life.
How can learning how to cook teach people how to master any skill?
Whether you want to learn how to speak a new language in three months, how to shoot a three-pointer in one weekend, or how to memorize a deck of cards in less than a minute, the true “recipe” of this book is a blueprint called “meta-learning.” This is a collection of techniques I gathered by traveling around the world studying the fastest learners on the planet.
I chose cooking as the way to tell a story about learning because A) I’d failed at cooking many times and wanted to simplify it so anyone (including me) could master it, and B) it involves all five senses. The kitchen is the perfect dojo for improving all of your senses, and therefore all learning.
What is your best food memory?
There are so, so many. Here are just a few off the top of my head, all of which are in the book:
- Planning and doing a NYC “Food Marathon”: 26.2 iconic dishes in 26 locations in 24 hours… all on foot. AMAZING.
- Cramming six months of culinary school techniques into a single weekend, done with the help of culinary school teachers and chefs.
- Spending three days deconstructing Alinea restaurant in Chicago. At the time of writing, it was the #1 ranked restaurant in the U.S. Chef Grant Achatz is like the Michael Jordan plus Wayne Gretzky plus Tiger Woods of cooking.
The list goes on and on.
Three seemingly simple dishes that require master skills?
Hmmm… I’ll answer the opposite instead. Seemingly complicated, awesome dishes that can be prepared in 10 minutes or less hands-on time:
- Osso Buco for 4-6 people
- Harissa Crab Cakes
- Rock ‘N’ Eel — eel on top of broccoli “rice” (This one is incredible.)
- Bacon-Infused Bourbon
Definitely, North African-spiced scrambled eggs + lentils + spinach. It can be prepared in the same time I used to take to microwave liquid egg whites. The combination of whole eggs, lentils, and spinach has incredible fat-loss properties… and it tastes delicious. The best salt to use is either Maldon sea salt or white truffle sea salt. Maldon might just change your life.
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This post was updated on May 11, 2015 to remove a broken link.