I went to see Pressure Cooker at the IFC during the rain storm this week. A documentary about a culinary program in a Philadelphia HS.
The film centers around a group of kids, 18 of them, who are in the culinary art class taught by Mrs. Stephenson. She is a helluva of a teacher. Takes no shit yet truly cares about making sure each of these kids make a better life for themselves.
The film itself isn’t great. Editing is a funny thing. As my brother says, it is an art. Film makers let you see what they want you to see. For instance, he says, when you see a reality TV show and there is a kid spending on their parents credit card with reckless abandon it makes the audience think one way. You might not see, although it might have been taped, the parents going crazy when they see the bill and punishing the kid. So, with that being said, the documentary is not only about the food.
The documentary really shows these kids, their lives and desires. Each kid has a story. Each kid wants to go to college. The culinary program provides an opportunity for them to get a possible scholarship. There is an event at the end of the year that people and schools from all over the area compete at, like a top chef, and then the kids are awarded scholarships/money based on their performance. It appears that this school is awarded over $750K in money the past year. The people that run the event actually speak with each student about their desires and try and work with the colleges of their choice independently to get them a scholarship thinking about their family situation too.
All and all, a movie that could have been a tad more focused but Mrs. Stephenson is an incredible person/teacher. She basically takes these kids and changes their lives. She nurtures them, even teaching them how to look someone in the eye and say thank you to helping them move forward to college. More people are needed like Mrs. Stephenson in our education system. Not only does she change one life, which is an life time accomplishment, she changes the life of many individuals on a yearly basis. She is the one that deserves an honorary degree.
When I look back on my academic career (checkered though it was) it’s always the teachers that went above and beyond who stand out in my memory, above any specific thing they taught me. Sometimes it’s as simple as them not discouraging me from something that seemed like an over the top idea, but worked out, like inviting Katharine Graham to speak to my college journalism class. I’ll definitely check this out, thanks for your take on it.
Prestige pressure cooker will serve you for a long time to come.