This large and lavishly illustrated book, designed as both a work of systematic instruction and a copious recipe-sampler, may well become the same kind of primer and mainstay as the Child-Beck-Bertholle Mastering The Art of French Cooking--and is in many ways a more practically planned kitchen tool. Willan, director of the well-known Ã‰cole de Cuisine La Varenne in Paris and author of this year's excellent French Regional Cooking, has organized about 250 recipes into a sequence of 35 numbered ""lessons"" starting with basic techniques (e.g., sautÃ‰ing, roasting, boning, working with gelatin), going on to specialized classic preparations (sauces of several types, choux paste, puff pastry), and concluding with some major menu-categories and foods (soups, salads, eggs, cheese, potatoes). Each lesson is introduced by a general essay and several sidebars (tips for best results, suggestions for preparing ahead, discussions of important technical considerations). This instruction-geared design creates illuminating rather than mechanical juxtapositions, especially in the earlier sections: a recipe for crÃ¨me caramel follows one for vegetable timbales, and a cold boeuf Ã la mode is succeeded by a layered Bavarian cream. The selection is catholic, with a fair number of sturdy classics and many good recipes of more modish leanings: green salad with hot seared chicken livers, numerous variations on beurre blanc, tea and lime sorbet, goat cheeses marinated in olive oil with herbs, pears with black pepper. The number of recipes is of course much smaller than that in the two-volume Mastering the Art, and the work is certainly smaller in scope. On the other hand, directions are more straightforwardly and economically written, and the organization gets down to cooking fundamentals more effectively. The full-color instructional photographs are among the clearer and better-planned of their kind. So, in all: a welcome alternative to Child-Beck-Bertholle.