Book Cover
  • 28th June 2018

Tim Ferris “The 4-Hour Chef” {Book Review}

Book Cover

What Is The 4-Hour Chef About?

The 4-Hour Chef is not your typical cookbook.  In this book, you learn how to pimp up your measly cooking skills in record time, and at the same time, you learn how to learn anything!

As you might have checked by now, this is not a cooking blog but a psychology blog about my journey of getting better.

After studying years of behaviour and clinical psychology, I became more and more interested in the memory and learning disciplines of psychology.  For me, learning is power, so looking for hacks to learn faster means to develop a superpower.

The 4-Hour Chef is a book about accelerated learning/meta-learning disguised as a cooking book.

So, it is a meta-learning book first and foremost, that uses cooking as an example to show you how you can get world-class in record time in any subject you desire.

The 4-Hour Chef is a five-step journey through the art and science of learning how to cook like a pro.

So What Are The 5- Steps? 


In this part of the 4-Hour Chef, Tim explains his accelerated learning models that promise to help you become world-class in about six months or less.  He uses amazing examples from memory champions, athletes who succeeded despite their poor talent, to chess prodigies like Josh Waitzkin, who became world-class in different disciplines.

The Domestic

Here, you will learn the 80/20 rule, the principles needed to cook thousands of dishes.  Here he explains how to use basic gear (pots, pans, etc.), and you learn the building blocks of cooking.  These are the ABCs of cooking.

The Wild

The Wild is where you step out of the kitchen and learn new techniques, and connect first-hand with the ingredients.

Ranging from how to cook over a fire, to how to cook a squirrel, in here, you learn to reconnect with the ingredient, and he teaches you to hunt, forage, and survive.(1)

The Scientist

In The Scientist, Tim explains the fourteen chemical reactions he thinks to provide a better understanding of food and taste.

Examples include dehydration, to how to make crunchy Bloody Marys.

The Professional 

Based on the first four chapters, you learn how the best in the world came to be, how you can get your cooking game to the next level, and how to make complex dishes.

Who Is Tim Ferris

Tim Ferris is a bestselling American author, entrepreneur, and self-proclaimed ”human guinea pig”.  He is most famous for his self-help books.  You might have heard of his book “The 4- Hour Workweek, but what he is most famous for is his podcast, The Tim Ferris Show, which has over 80 million downloads.  In his podcast, Tim interviews world experts and masters of any field imaginable.  Guests like Peter Diamandis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Fox, Dave Asprey, and other incredible high achievers.

The older I get, the more time I spend – as a percentage of each day on crafting better questions.  In my experience, going from 1 x to 10 x, from 10 x to 100x and from 100x to 1000x returns in various areas has been a product of better questions.  “Tim Ferris

It is Tim’s mission to decode human greatness.  He interviews high achievers of any kind to find emulatable commonalities among the top 1%ers of the world.  Coming from a psychological background, listening to his podcast was a true game-changer for me.  For me, interesting people are case studies, and up to this point, I only knew about case studies that were in the unsuccessful/unhappy part of the spectrum.  Tim gave me 280 amazing human brains to dissect.  He is called “Oprah of Audio”, which to me, is by far the weirdest praise I have ever heard.  If you have not checked him out, stop reading this article right now and check out his blog.  Click here to see his blog.  I also wrote an article about him where I deconstructed how he asks questions.  Click here to read it.

Two Must-Know Concepts Of The 4-Hour Chef


This is my favourite piece of work form the 4-Hour Chef, and from Tim in general.

This model is an acronym for learning any skill in record time.


What are the minimal learnable units, the LEGO blocks that I should start with?

In here, Tim explains four primary tools that allow you to throw a lot on the wall and see what sticks.  This part of Tim’s meta-learning approaches deals with the question.

How do I break this into manageable pieces?

Each letter of the DISSS acronym stands for a technique.

Deconstruction in the 4-Hour Chef stands for:


Like Tim, I had the great idea of learning Japanese.  For people who have never tried to learn Japanese, that is 1,945 characters.  Fuck me.  Where do I start?

Reducing means that you start with learning the absolute essentials.  So with Japanese, instead of starting with all 1,945 characters, you start with the building blocks: Hiragana.  You can learn the basic alphabet in a week, in my opinion.  A great way to learn it is Dr Mookus Hiragana.  Click here to check it out.  I also wrote a technique on how to learn anything fast using the Memory Palace Technique, click here to check it out.  The most complex letters in Japanese have about 15 strokes.  For comparison, the most complicated letters in English are E and W, four strokes.  So reducing is a necessity if you do not want to lose your mind and your motivation.


A great way of getting started is to look for world-leading experts and ask them how they did it.  Tim suggests that one should start by interviewing people who are currently not in the limelight.  This was a great aha moment that led me to the decision that I should start a podcast and start to interview amazing people.

Whatever problem you have today, there is a human out there who faced the same problem, and who is totally crushing it right now.  Click here to check out my podcast.  Also, I hate to spam you, but I wrote an article about how to get a mentor, and in there is an example of how you can approach high achievers and ask them for advice, click here to read that.


One of Tim’s best questions is: What if I did the opposite?

In his book, he gives an example that fires that are built, opposite to the common belief they burn much better.

I think this is also true in life.  When I tried to deconstruct mental illness and depression, in particular, I asked myself often what the opposite side of the behaviour would like, and if the cure was hidden there.

And this has to lead me, ultimately, to a very intensive phase of studying happy and successful people.


In here, Tim uses a technique that allows you to understand the grammar of any language in 1 or 2 hours.  WTF!

He studied Cardinal Giuseppe Mezzofanti, born 1774.  The charming Italian could speak as many as 72 languages!  He is the most hyperpolyglot.

Instead of learning languages with normal grammar books, he had native speakers recite the Lord’s prayers.  This passage gave him an overview of nearly all of the important grammatical structures (direct object, indirect object, noun, cases, possessives).(1)

Tim has a 12 sentence exercise that he calls the “Deconstruction Dozen”.

Here are the lines.  Translate this, and you are good to go!

The apple is red.

It is John’s apple.

I give John the apple.

We give him the apple.

He gives it to John.

She gives it to him.

Is the apple red?

The apples are red.

I must give it to him.

I want to give it to her.

I`m going to know tomorrow.

(I have eaten the apple.)

I can`t eat the apple.


  • Which 20% of the blocks should I focus on for 80% of the outcome I want?

The common approach to learning a language is to learn, for example, every vocabulary of food.

Tim suggests in the 4-Hour Chef that you start with the words that are most frequently used.

The Oxford English Dictionary contains around roughly 171,476 words.  Good luck learning all of them.  However, learning the 100 most used words gives you 50% of the practical use of 171,476 words!

If you start by going through all words, it will take you 25 plus years to remember all of them, and you will quit 10 times before you mastered this language.  Learning the most frequently used words will make you conversational in up to 2 months.  Click here to read the 100 most common words in the English language.


  • In what order should I learn the blocks?

Here in the 4-Hour Chef, Tim emphasises the importance of sequencing.  An easy example is that you first need to learn the alphabet before you can read a book.

Here, it is important to look for teachers who can show you what you can ignore.  Not learning something is as important as learning something.


  • How do I set up stakes to create real consequences and guarantees that I follow the program?

A classic example here would be that you want to create the habit of working out.  You tried it over and over at home, but you always stop.  What you want to have is a system that raises your personal accountability.  If you train with a partner, not going to the gym is much harder because you ditch your training partner and they will be mad.

Let us say you want to lose some weight.  You can, to raise the stakes, give them $100, and you only get it back if you lose 5 pounds in 1 month.

A funny way to raise the stakes that Tim suggests is the site stickK or economics Lab.  There, you are forced to donate money to an anti-charity if you do not meet your goal.

CaFE Model

I am sorry for the length of my letter, but I had not the time to write a short one”.

The second meta-learning is the CaFE Model.

We live in the information age, meaning that we are bombarded with huge amounts of information.  Simplifying skills is a necessity.

Compression: Cheat Sheets For Anything

In learning, everything is allowed.  Tim suggests creating a compressed Cheat Sheet.

Here, you try to fit the entire skill into one page.  The idea is to make a big skill, that is intimidating small.  In the one-pager, you should focus on the basic rules and principles, and some real-world examples.


Here, he emphasises the importance of frequency.  One of the biggest reasons why people fail at learning languages, for example, is, in my opinion, because they do a bad job at deciding what daily dose of learning they need to become fluent in the targeted skill.

Here, ask yourself; how many minutes do I need to invest every day to become fluent in my desired time?

Several polygons say that 22 minutes is enough to get fluent in a language in 6 months.

What people often do is that they learn extremely hard for a couple of days, then burn out and lose their motivation.

Also, people do a horrible job of defining their goals.  Learning Spanish, for example, is a horrible goal.  It has no timeline, no achievable milestone, and it does not help with practising on your personal biological limits.

If you want to get in shape, for example, the habit of working out daily is much more important than the workout.


Here, you learn how to make information stick.  Our brain is actually really bad when it comes to remembering abstract symbols like numbers and letters.  Where our brain excels at though is remembering pictures and locations.  I explain this principle in my Memory Palace article.  Click here to read it.  Watch the video below to get an idea of how your brain learns best.  In the video, you will learn the Japanese alphabet hiragana in 60 seconds!

The 4-Hour Chef is full of examples of how to remember a deck of cards in 60 seconds, how to learn incredible long numbers fast, and many more examples.

What I Do Not Like

I loved this book from start to end.  What repelled me at the beginning: it is really long!  670 pages are quite a book, and if you are not a weirdo like me who loves to spend days putting your nose into geeky learning books, then this might be too big to tackle.  Otherwise, I have nothing to complain about.  Great book, and for 30 bucks, as always with books, a bargain, in my opinion.



Call to Action

Here is some homework for you.
  1. Make a list of skills that you want to learn in 2018.
  2. Now use the DISSS model!
  3. Use the CaFE Model to create a cheat sheet!
  4. Check out
  5. Check out
  6. com/fold-shirt

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