Back in 1988, Richard Grausman, a cooking authority and former U.S. representative of the Cordon Bleu in Paris, wanted to title his collection of pared-down recipes for French classics Who’s Afraid of French Cooking? But Grausman’s publisher, Peter Workman, told him he wanted the title to reflect its serious subject. Grausman conceded, going with At Home with the French Classics, although he gave the book a subtitle—“great French recipes updated and simplified”—that played to his concept of taking the fear out of French cooking.
The years following the book’s publication saw many changes in the way home cooks made dinner, thanks, most notably, to the rise in cookbooks, shows, and magazine articles touting simplicity. And now that Grausman’s book has been repackaged and republished (Workman is offically releasing it May 18), it has an appropriately modern title: French Classics Made Easy: A 10-Minute Soufflé, a Contemporary Bouillabaisse, a Lighter, Quicker Cassoulet—250 Great Recipes Simplified for the Modern Kitchen.
“I felt the word ‘classics’ scared people away,” Grausman says, thinking back to when he first wrote the book. And Grausman certainly had good reason to know how people viewed French cooking. As the founder of a nonprofit program that works through public schools to prepare underserved high schoolers for college and careers in the restaurant and hospitality industry, he has helped thousands of students learn how to master coq au vin, beurre blanc, boeuf Bourguignon, and other classics. The students in Grausman’s Careers Through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) would tell him, “Mr. Grausman, you make classics so easy,” he recalls.
With its brighter, more modern cover showing a gratin made with potatoes, milk, and heavy cream, and new title and subtitle, French Classics Made Easy is poised to join books like Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table, which Houghton Mifflin Harcourt published last year to great success. Still, Grausman is not offering readers a 30-minute cassoulet. Some of his recipes take a few hours to make, even though he does eliminate non-critical steps and offers instructions on making parts of certain dishes in advance when possible. “For many years now we’ve been going quicker, quicker, less cooking, raw foods—all of which have their place,” he says. “But there seems to be a hunger by young people to spend the time and do things that they know will help them understand the basics.”