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Cooking class at Philadelphia's Frankford High School is all about composing salads, sculpting vegetables and weathering teacher Wilma Stephenson, who occasionally boils over. "Get your brain upscale!" Stephenson commands her students, whom she harangues and harasses in the present so they just might have a future.
The film, directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker, follows Stephenson's class a semester after her students have won more than $750,000 in scholarships -- at a school where 40 percent of students don't make it to their senior year. Consistently successful in getting her graduates out of the inner city and into such culinary cooking colleges as the Art Institute of Atlanta, the Culinary Institute of America and Monroe College in New Rochelle, N.Y., she is no-nonsense, all business. Her manner may be brusque, but her students are responsive.
One would need an ice sculpture for a heart not to melt all over "Pressure Cooker," or, for that matter, the tough-as-gristle Stephenson. "I have one student who received a scholarship to CIA, and decided not to go," she said. "We even went to see it; it's a beautiful campus. But she's going to Monroe. I think she was a little more comfortable with the surroundings. She asked me, 'Do you still love me?' I said, 'Yes I do.' "