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Become an Expert at Everything with GQ How to Win at Life

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Become an Expert at Everything with GQ How to Win at Life


We all know one of those annoying people who are good at everything. They have a great career. They’re athletic, talented, and respected. Plus they can cook, they give great speeches, and you know they would be helpful in a crisis.

Now you can be one of those people too with GQ How to Win at Life, the new book from British GQ’s Senior Commissioning Editor Charlie Burton.

Bringing together expert advice on everything from fashion to sports to fine food to work, romance, travel, and more, this book is a master class in excelling at everything you do.

To give you a taste of the skills you’ll master with this modern gentleman’s (and woman’s) handbook, here’s some helpful life advice from celebrity chef-cum-restaurateur Jamie Oliver, travel photographer Lauren Bath, and former SAS officer Andy McNab.

How to cook the perfect steak with Jamie Oliver

1. Render the heat

Take the steak out of the fridge at least an hour before cooking. Contrary to what you may have been told, oiling and seasoning the raw steak is unnecessary. The animal’s fat alone should provide all the oil and flavour you need. “The fat is where you taste the terroir,” notes Oliver.

To that end, trim off some fat, throw it into a cold pan and put it on to a medium-high heat. Next add the steak, and hold it fatty-edge down. “You’ll see it start to melt like a candle,” Wait until the fatty edge has gone crispy and caramel-coloured before turning the steak on its side.

2. Prep the pepper

Flip the steak once every minute. If you don’t keep up this frequency, the moisture will rise up through the meat rather than staying in the centre. Between flips, take some peppercorns and crush them with a pestle and mortar, then sift them.

“There is a difference in flavour between the outside and the inside of a peppercorn. Sifting them means you can grade out the outer dry husk and just have the essence of pepper.” Put this sifted pepper to one side for later.

3. Enhance the taste

“If you want to introduce some flavours, probably one that could be written into English and Italian religion would be rosemary.” Grab a bunch of rosemary sprigs and use them like a paintbrush, dabbing them in the oil of the pan and then on the meat. “Use the rosemary to love the steak.”

Another great addition is garlic. Oliver likes to slice a whole bulb in half, rub it all over the meat and then drop the garlic into the pan to cook with the steak. After ten minutes, a 1½-inch (4cm) thick steak should, roughly speaking, be medium-rare.

4. Wield the knife

Take the steak off the heat and place it in a china dish with the rosemary on top. Let it rest for 5 to 7 minutes before transferring it to a thick wooden cutting board. Examine the steak: it comprises three separate muscles. Each has a different texture so should be prepared differently.

The main eye should be cut into ⅓-inch (1 cm) thick slices, the top cap should be diced into rough chunks, and the bottom cap sliced thinly, almost like sashimi. Remove any big pieces of fat.

5. Season and serve

Sprinkle with some flaky salt from a height, and then do the same with the sieved pepper. “Everyone thinks it’s cheffy nonsense, but doing it from a height means it disperses.” Next, drizzle the meat with extra virgin olive oil and serve it on the board accompanied by steamed greens and squashed roast potatoes.

Watch Jamie Oliver prepare the perfect steak.

How to take a “Wow” holiday photo with Lauren Bath

1. Go in blind

On holiday you’ll naturally want to shoot the famous sights, but you need to find your own take on them. “The best way to shoot a cliché subject if to minimize how many shots you look at before you go to shoot it. If you pore over hundreds of pictures beforehand, you’ll find it very challenging to think of something new,” says Bath.

“Another good tip is not to settle for the first shot you take. I always call that the safety shot, and it’s never my favourite. I try all different things: different focal length on my lenses, different vantage points, reflections…”

2. Ditch the selfie stick

Selfies, in the usual sense, leave a lot to be desired. If you want to take a self-portrait, it’s much better to find a scene that’s interesting in its own right but which would be enhanced by a human element in the shot.

“To pull off these kinds of selfies, you’ll need a tripod and a self-timer. You get your camera and settings all ready to go and manually focus your lens on the places you intend to sit. Set your timer for enough time to allow you to get into frame, push the shutter button, and get among it.”

3. Learn these two classic compositional techniques

The “rule of thirds” is an easy way to enhance almost any shot. “Imagine your frame is split into three sections horizontally and vertically. If you have a point of interest, such as a subject, leading line or horizon, try positioning it on one of these lines.”

Another helpful technique is “framing”. “This is blocking part of the scene you’re shooting with a natural frame in the foreground. You can use doorways or windows, or think outside the box: trees, or potholes in a ship.”

4. Shoot early or late

The optimum times to take photos are the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset — these are known as the golden hours. “When the sun is close to the horizon, this results in soft, warm light. It should make your images look amazing with little extra effort.”

You should also take a break at midday. “The trickiest time of day to shoot is midday on a sunny or cloudless day, as it is bright and there’s a lot of contrast. You’ll notice hard shadows everywhere, and shooting people is next to impossible unless you get them in the shade.”

Check out Lauren Bath’s stunning photography on Instagram.

How to survive a kidnapping with Andy McNab

1. Become the gray man

Let’s backtrack. The most important thing is not to get kidnapped in the first place, so don’t present yourself as a person of value. “You’ve got a lot of rich guys in Moscow who drive ten-year-old Skodas,” notes McNab. Give a false name whenever you book a cab to pick you up from the airport. “A lot of airports around the planet, you’ve got guys there with mobiles and laptops who’ll look up the customer names on the waiting drivers’ signs. If it’s a high-value executive, well straight away that’s a fantastic target.”

2. Create distance

If somebody tries to kidnap you, time is of the essence. That means you should plan escape routes for any high-risk location. The crucial thing is to create distance between yourself and the problem: run to a safe space or jump from a window. If that’s not possible, you should comply. “But every opportunity there is, you need to try to escape, no matter what — push and run.”

What if they’re armed? “If they’ve got pistols, they’ve got to be really good shots to take you down at 16 feet (5m) as a moving target.”

3. Forge a relationship

In captivity, you need to stay healthy. Avoid beatings by complying with demands and sympathizing with opinions. Your other priority is to make them see you as a human being. Tell them your name, and talk about your family (a well-prepared kidnapper will already know about your relatives so you’re unlikely to put them at extra risk.)

Also, start smoking. “It’s the universal bond. It gives you a mutual need with the captor. You get physical contact with their hands, because they’re not going to let you use the lighter yourself. And also you get eye-to-eye contact when you’re saying thank you.”

4. Don’t lose your mind

While always looking to escape, accept your situation. “The only thing they haven’t got control of is your mind, so get a grip.” If they tell you nobody wants to pay your ransom, don’t believe it — it means nothing until it happens.

As for staying sane in solitary confinement, McNab recalls an American pilot held in isolation for six years in Vietnam. “He built a house brick by brick in his head, working on it every day. Then he did the gardens. Once that was done, he said, ‘Right the house needs repainting…’”

5. Play the endgame

Relationship with your guards deteriorating? Being moved more frequently? Things are going wrong with your captors. If you suspect they are about to kill you, you may as well fight — use your slop bucket, perhaps, or simply push your guard and run for it. “If the door in the corridor is locked, well, you’re going to get shot — but you don’t know…”

On the other hand, rescue might be imminent. If special forces come in, discard any weapons, hit the ground — and don’t grab the soldiers out of relief. “If you do that, they’re all trained to drop [strike] you: you’ll go down.”

Find out what scares Andy McNab most.


Illustrations © Dave Hopkins.

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