3/11/2013 01:56:00 PM

Tim Ferriss Teaches SXSW How to Cook

Tim Ferriss, photo courtesy Flickr user seanosh
On Saturday Tim Ferriss, the king of the four-hour work week, taught SXSW how to cook. No, he wasn’t wearing a chef’s hat and standing in front of a makeshift kitchen, dicing and slicing like Julia Child. Instead, he described a four-piece learning method he has developed that will help you learn any skill super fast, whether that’s speaking Spanish, playing the guitar or, in this case, cooking. He believes that it’s possible for anyone to place in the top 5 percent of a skill set in six weeks or less.

Ferriss cited Alinea as his inspiration and showed a recent dessert at the famous molecular gastronomy – focused restaurant in Chicago: a dark-chocolate piñata full of dry-ice fumes that had been shattered not on a plate but on hypoallergenic latex from a sex shop in Europe. Alinea’s chef and owner, Grant Achatz, uses a set of questions to create out-of-the-ordinary masterpieces: questions such as, can I reverse this (for example, a dessert as an entrée) and can I reconstruct this (for example, incorporating root beer flavors in unexpected ways). Ferriss, who was promoting his new book, The 4-Hour Chef, recommends using these questions to step outside your normal worldview.

“Food is a great place to experiment, even if you don’t want to cook,” he told the audience, “because it engages all of your senses.” In another session called "Eating to Live Online: Virtual Food and Real Life," panelists talked about how there has been a resurgence in cooking. Cooking instructor Mary Helen Leonard said, "There's a divide between the skill and the perception of the skill."

Ferriss devised his DiSSS method of learning to break down that divide. DiSSS relies on four principles: deconstruction (break down the skill into tiny learnable bites), selection (choose just the tools and ingredients you need), sequencing (he recommends learning in reverse by starting at the end and going backward), and stakes (put your money where your mouth is with apps like Stickk, which donates money to your anti-charity of choice if you don’t make good on your word).

As far as cooking tools go, Ferriss says all you need are a microflame, a cutlery cleaver to learn knife skills, a surgical lint-free towel, a Swiss peeler, a spatula, a thermometer and a cast-iron pot. He also advises learning to sauté by kneeling on the carpet with a sauté pan full of dry beans and flipping them around.

Solid advice? Who knows. Using Ferriss’ model, maybe in six weeks’ time you’ll be the next chef at Alinea.

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