Go by the Book, Follow the Procedure - Cook vs Chef

I believe in going by the book. Even if I have experience the book might be wrong I’m still not going to feel right until I see a different book with better information. The longer I sail more reluctant I am to depart from the book.

Here is a good post: First Principles: The Building Blocks of True Knowledge

The difference between reasoning by first principles and reasoning by analogy is like the difference between being a chef and being a cook. If the cook lost the recipe, he’d be screwed. The chef, on the other hand, understands the flavor profiles and combinations at such a fundamental level that he doesn’t even use a recipe. He has real knowledge as opposed to know-how.

Here is the post that fully explains the cook/chef analogy The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce

From that post:


But in life—when it comes to the reasoning “recipes” we use to churn out a decision—we may want to think twice about where we are on the cook-chef spectrum.

it wouldn’t matter what this engineer cooks, it always tastes the same anyway.


Why is there always dirty lube oil in the pasta?

That’s squid ink. You pay extra for that


An example of using analogies is the AB mixing two part paint. Sometimes the AB will add extra hardener thinking it will cure quicker. Like a car going faster when you give it more gas.

Two part paint doesn’t work that way as it’s a chemical reaction.

I’ve seen people do the same thing with a thermostat. On a simple thermostat setting it higher does not warm the room up faster. It’s an off/on switch.

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That’s an interesting take. I also find that the more proficient I get in a field, the higher my propensity to reach for the manual. It’s not because I’m tired of responsibility and want to hand it off to whomever wrote the book, even though that has saved my bacon a fair few times, or at least I don’t think so. I think it’s because the better I understand the complexities of thoroughly evaluating a certain parameter, such as the tightening torque of a bolt in a non-standard application, the more I appreciate not having to figure that out every time. In the parlance of your metaphor, I’m not trying to create culinary poetry here, I’m just trying to get the frickin’ soup done on time, without over doing the salt.

Quite aside from that, I harbor ideas about building a one-off engine some day (anyone want to hear a roots fed 3x7 radial 2-stroke diesel?). I guess even weary short order cooks like to experiment in the kitchen every now and then.

That’s funny! I’ve had to explain the same thing over and over to people who simply don’t believe me until I show them a diagram, and probably not even then. This includes my girlfriend, who is an engineer!


Speaking as someone who wrote the book, i’m hoping you will go by it. Or should i say go buy it?


An example of an error is the idea many mariners have that a ship in beam seas will roll heavily. This is a result of thinking by analogy, if there are many examples of ships in beam seas rolling than experience tells us beam seas cause rolling.

However if we ask why do ships roll in beam seas the answer is that it’s because the period of the waves is close to the rolling period of ship. This is a first principle.


Your understanding of the relationship between cooking and chefs is flawed. I speak from the standpoint of being married to a chef who worked in a nationally ranked restaurant and whose friends are mostly chefs.

There are two kinds of chefs, pastry chefs and sous chefs. Pastry must be done by the book. It’s chemistry. If you don’t follow the recipe, if you whip the eggs too much or too little your dish will fail. On the other hand, sous chefs are the meat and sauce chefs. Their fame rests on experimenting with a pinch of this and a dab of that. Yes, they find something that works and write it down and recreate it – for a season or until their next trip to the farmer’s market – but it’s not written in stone.

Life is the same. We need people who go by the book and people who wing it. They are both necessary for a complete meal.


Well, it’s an analogy. An analogy has two parts, the source and the target. The source is something we understand and the target is the thing we are trying to explain.

In order for an analogy to work some simplifying assumptions have to be made. But that’s OK because we are trying to explain the target, not the source.


So if we say when a helmsman following helm commands is on the left end of the spectrum while the pilot giving commands in more on the right side of the spectrum

We don’t want the helmsman to wing it because he might not understand the principles involved… On the other hand the pilot presumably understands the principals involved.

This particular analogy did not originate with me, it’s from here: The Cook and the Chef: Musk’s Secret Sauce


Musk is an asshole.

Tesla and SpaceX are scams.

Time will tell if my second statement is correct.

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Yes Musk does seem like an asshole. And both those articles were too long.

Richard Feynman on the other hand was admired for his good character.

It’s about the approach to solving problems. I feel like I am on more solid ground when my experience and the book match. Sometimes you just need to find a better book.

Hurricane avoidance, ship behavior in heavy weather and anchoring are some examples where my experience and observations didn’t match conventional wisdom.

I should add that what the instructors are teaching in BRM or leadership/management classes doesn’t match well known facts about human behavior.


Interesting analysis but much too wordy. Urban proves the point that he’s a middling cook.

Cooking is an interesting analogy with regards to know-how vs knowledge.

I was flipping through channels one evening and came across the cooking show Chopped. Even an excellent cook would quickly fail if they can’t cook without a recipe. The show is set-up on purpose so that know-how is not enough, need true knowledge to not get chopped.

As OneEighteen noted, analogies have to be used with great care. If you do not get the source (here, cook/chef) exactly right, a reader who knows the source well will not only reject the analogy but be skeptical of what you say about things the reader does not know well. In this case the spectrum is simple and obvious enough to be described directly.

Speaking as some who, from time to time, has been beaten up by some pretty good editors :slightly_smiling_face:

As for Musk, he’s a typical Silicon Valley hustler. Works well when you’re doing dating apps, not so well when kinetic energy is involved.




IIRC the last time I saw you it was on a motorcycle with a bad tire.

Ah, The Edge. That wasn’t me, that was Hunter S. Thompson :slightly_smiling_face:



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Silcon Valley creates a strange group of successful people that made lots of money on bullshit “tech” shit that totally over estimate their intelligence and experience. Then they branch into manufacturing to make widgets which they think is easy…but they don’t understand there is 100+ years of institutional knowledge in manufacturing widgets, or in case of Tesla, cars.

There is literally a guy at GM/Toyota/etc that is the expert on how to get the robots to put the sealant on the windshields correctly (his entire career being spent on this important, but unglamorous, task). Musk/tech jerks think they can use their superior “intellect” and success in tech to just jump into these processes. The thing is, doing a design change or a recall on a physical manufactured good is much more involved and expensive than just doing a simple automatic software update to correct an “oopsie”.

Imagine if Musk used his arrogance to make ships LOL.


Probably, but so was Steve Jobs.

Tesla (I do not own one) has helped put EV’s at the forefront of the discussion of what may be possible. The fact that I see more of them on the road shows their acceptance is more than just a fad.

Space X, What part do you suspect to be a scam? Have to admit they have launched a bunch of rockets. And utilizing a reusable launch system…Perhaps not a novel idea, but one successfully implemented.

My take is that Tesla and Space X are successful (to the degree they are successful) in spite of Musk instead of because of him. His assertions about the Tesla “autopilot” are beyond irresponsible.



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