VICTOR GIELISSE IS NO ordinary chef. In 1986 he opened Actuelle, a restaurant in Dallas that became wildly popular, not to mention successful. In 1991 Gielisse was the Culinary Institute of America’s chef of the year. In 1993 he ended his affiliation with Actuelle, and today Gielisse is the dean of culinary baking at the CIA. He’s also a certified master chef, a title that applies to only 52 others in the United States (6 new applicants are finalists and will be given a final exam at the Culinary Institute of America in mid-January). So what does that mean? Basically, a master chef can tell you about the chemical processes of food—and create spectacular dishes.

In his cookbook Cuisine Actuelle Gielisee compiled some of the recipes from his restaurant and put them into an easy format for readers to try. In the introduction Gielisee states: “There are no secret ingredients in my cooking because, quite simply, in cooking there are no secrets. Certainly, throughout the years chefs have taught me techniques to enhance flavor and techniques to perfect a specific cooking method, but all these are learned. I firmly believe that success is based on one’s ability to accept a continuous learning experience.” Moving through the book, he provides tips on seasoning, such as using fresh herbs whenever possible. A helpful section is devoted to fish and shellfish in which he describes how to buy and cook seafood: “The store where you purchase your seafood should look and smell clean. Fish does have an odor, but it should be a mild, sweet, sea-like smell. Fish should be displayed properly on plenty of ice.” After a brief note on wine by Clive O’Donoghue, expect to find recipes such as the following for everything from appetizers to desserts:

Appetizers—Pan-Seared Lamb Carpaccio With Tuscan Bean Salad and Rigatoni in Wild Mushroom Broth With Parma Ham and Porcini

Soups—Smoked Chicken and Three Pepper Soup With Baby Corn and Roma Tomato Basil Soup

Sauces, Relishes, and Dressings—Peanut Sauce and Basil and Chive Vinaigrette

Entrées—Three-Nut-Crusted Pork Tenderloin and Pecan- and Bran-Crusted Catfish

Accompaniments—Tomato Risotto and Caraway Rye Dumplings

Desserts—Pink Grapefruit Sorbet and Poached Pinot Noir Pears With Butterscotch Sauce