Pressure Cooker is a documentary that takes place at Philadelphia’s Frankford High School, where three seniors find an unlikely champion in the kitchen of Wilma Stephenson. Against the backdrop of the row homes of working-class Philadelphia, Stephenson has helped countless students reach the top culinary schools in the country. And under her fierce direction, the usual distractions of high school are swept aside as Erica, Tyree and Fatoumata prepare to achieve beyond what anyone else expects from them.
When I first read the storyline of this film, I immediately thought: Oh ok, Dangerous Minds meets Hell’s Kitchen.
As the film drew me in though, I quickly realized, real life cannot be summed up so in one pithy line.
No, this isn’t Bravo, and this isn’t a game. Real lives hang in balance here, and real money is on the line. The hunger for a chance to make it, to get out, to build a future is palpable.
Stephenson is truly extraordinary. She is a hawk in her classroom, but a mother hawk who would do anything for her young. Erica, Tyree, Fatoumata, and the other culinary arts students rise above stereotypes and win your heart with their good nature, their determination, their focus…and their one-liners.
Pressure Cooker entertains and inspires. As a viewer, you are hooked in as you listen to Erica candidly talk of her dreams, see the weight of responsibility sit on Tyree’s shoulders, or watch as Fatoumata finds the words to express her gratitude for a chance at education at Frankford (something most people would consider a plight rather than an opportunity).
You watch them perfecting their potato tournés (a potato cut in the shape of a football with exactly 7 sides, approximately 3/4” width x 2” length), creating plates that would fit in at any top culinary school (judged, by the way, by the likes of Morimoto), and you can’t help but root for them, feel for them, hope the best for their future.
San Francisco, CA
Opening Date: August 21, 2009
Venue: Landmark’s Lumiere
Opening Date: August 21, 2009
Venue: Landmark’s Shattuck
SUPPORT C-CAP: Donate to the organization featured in Pressure Cooker and support education in the culinary arts.
Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) works with public schools across the country to prepare underserved high school students for college and career opportunities in the restaurant and hospitality industry. A national nonprofit, C-CAP manages the largest independent high school culinary scholarship program in the United States. Since 1990, C-CAP has awarded students $25 million in scholarships and donated $2.2 million in supplies and equipment to classrooms. In addition to awarding scholarships and providing high schools with needed products and supplies, C-CAP offers training and curriculum enrichment programs including: cooking competitions, teacher training, job shadows, job training, internships, college advising, and career guidance. C-CAP operates in seven locations including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Hampton Roads, VA, Washington, D.C. and statewide in Arizona. For information, visit http://www.ccapinc.org
Special Jury Prize, Los Angeles Film FestivalAudience Award, Aspen Film FestivalEditing, Honorable Mention, Woodstock Film FestivalAudience Award, Portland International Film FestivalBest Documentary, Philadelphia CinefestBest Documentary-Honorable Mention, Nashville Film FestivalAudience Award, Berkshire International Film Festival