Le Cordon Bleu's 26 chef-instructors contribute more than 100 traditional French recipes as well as many creative new dishes. While the presentation is a bit unsophisticated, and the color photographs do little to inspire, the writing itself is clear and direct, ingredient lists are complete and informative, and useful tips are offered on difficult maneuvers like shaping and cooking quenelles. Most dishes are classics, like vichyssoise, coquilles Saint-Jacques, and lemon mousse. But the chefs have also thrown in some dishes revealing foreign influences. Spicy gazpacho with crayfish demonstrates a Spanish touch, and the chicken salad is flavored with an Asian combination of ginger and sesame. They've even put unique twists on some basics: The tarte tatin calls for mango instead of the usual apple or pear, and the duck breasts parade in a garnish of pistachio paste. As could be expected from first-class chefs, many of the dishes involve complicated processes (the red mullet with potato scales was written for an advanced course at Le Cordon Bleu, and garnishes and sauces play an important role throughout the book), but careful division of steps makes it all manageable, if still a bit intimidating. A section on culinary techniques features textbook instruction and step-by-step photos for everything from the simple peeling and chopping of garlic to julienning vegetables, boning a rabbit, and making a puff pastry. Utilitarian in the best possible way.