There’s a force-of-nature behind the door to Room 325 at Frankford High School in Philadelphia. Her name is Wilma Stephenson and she teaches Culinary Arts. Infamously blunt, Mrs. Stephenson runs a “boot camp” at Frankford, disciplining her students into capable chefs and responsible students. A teacher for 40 years, Wilma can be cantankerous – but behind her tough talking exterior is a teacher who cares passionately about getting the best out of her kids. She’ll do anything for those students with the hunger to succeed; those who fall short will not be missed – many will drop out before the first week is over.
Pressure Cooker documents an entire school year with Wilma and those students committed enough to surrender themselves to her enlightened despotism. By the end of the year, 13 of her students will have made it through the gauntlet. At a school where over 40% of students don t even make it to their senior year, Wilma shows her kids how to achieve the American Dream: You choose a realistic goal. You work hard. You work the system. You get out of Northeast Philly.
At the end of the year, there is a one-day scholarship competition, where the city’s top chefs judge the students’ skills and talent. Success depends on their capacity for sustained drive throughout their senior year. Can they endure the stressful challenges wrought by their home lives – holding minimum wage jobs after school, being surrogate parents to their siblings – while still finding the motivation to wake up at 6AM to get to class early enough to master crepes and tournee potatoes…?