Everybody knows you’re not a real chef until you’ve conquered Hollandaise sauce, mastered boeuf bourguignon, and splattered butter on every page of Julia Child—in other words, until you’ve submitted yourself completely to les dieux of cooking: the French.

It’s no coincidence that many of the world’s all-time classic dishes are rooted in French cuisine. If you were to cook your way through Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, you’d know all the good recipes and all the important techniques, not to mention fit in with the tradition of Americans learning to cook from the French, like some of the members of our panel.

But if you didn’t want to spend nights and weekends mastering that art, you can get a decent education by browsing the 25 essentials our experts picked out. Some of them are French natives; others, foreign transplants who fell in love with the people and cuisine across the Atlantic and learned it well.

Here’s our panel of chefs and food writers, editors and bloggers, who have mastered the art of French cooking and want to make it easier for you to dabble in soupe à l’oignon, cassoulet, and salade lyonnaise.

Kerry Saretsky, London- and New York-based food writer and creator of the blog French Revolution
Ann Mah, author of Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris and recipient of a James Beard Foundation culinary scholarship. Mah currently splits her time between Paris and New York City, but she loves eating everywhere.
Elizabeth Bard, author of the bestselling memoir/cookbook Lunch in Paris and the co-founder of Scaramouche, an artisanal ice cream company in Cereste, France. Her next book, Picnic in Provence, will be published by Little, Brown in spring 2015.
Cara Eisenpress, editor at Big Girls, Small Kitchen, author of In the Small Kitchen, and First We Feast contributor