Directed by Jennifer Grausman & Mark Becker
99 minutes, documentary, color, English, 2008
There’s a force-of-nature at Frankford High School in Philadelphia. Her name is Wilma Stephenson and she runs an infamous Culinary Arts “boot camp” for students. A teacher for 40 years, Wilma can be blunt and cantankerous – but beneath her tough exterior is a person who cares passionately about getting the best out of her kids.
Pressure Cooker documents an entire school year with Wilma and her students. At a school where over 40% of the students don’t even make it to their senior year, Wilma shows her kids how to achieve her version of the American dream: Choose a realistic goal. Work hard. Work the system. And get out of Northeast Philly.
At the end of the year, culinary students from all over Philly compete in a one-day cook-off, where top chefs judge the students’ skills and talent. Scholarships are on the line; success will depend upon how dedicated they’ve been over the last year – enduring stressful home lives while still finding the motivation to wake up at 6AM to get to class early enough to master crepes and tournée potatoes.
"A heart-grabbing, awe-inspiring work that needs no embellishment." - Philadelphia Inquirer
"Joyous!" - Seattle Times
"Excellent! A fitting tribute to a selfless role model with an big heart and an indomitable spirit. Let’s face it, they don’t make ‘em like Wilma Stephenson anymore." - Newsblaze
"Both a tribute to a teacher who actually cares and kids who actually want to learn. Would that there were more people like them." - NY Post
"Pressure Cooker may not get the royal hype accorded Julie & Julia, but it merits a place of honor at the table." - Washington Post
"Breathtakingly equal opportunity in its search for human poetry." - Slant Magazine
"I grew a deep hunger while watching Pressure Cooker, not just from the students’ mouthwatering dishes, but from the fact that teacher/chef Wilma Stephenson could uniformly inspire such success." - Film Threat
Read about Rachael Ray's gifts to Frankford High in The Philadelphia Inquirer