Directed by Jennifer Grausman and Mark Becker
Starz Denver Film Festival
I went to see Pressure Cooker on the advice of Denveater, who described it as Rocky with toques. It was the third movie I saw at the Starz Denver Film Festival.
That seems like a pretty accurate description to me, though I haven’t seen Rocky since it originally came out: my memory is a little hazy. Certainly, all the high school students in this movie had something to overcome, even if, in the case of the football player cum chef, it was only his reputation.
This being a movie about a high-class cooking competition, they also had to overcome their ghetto tastebuds, as their hard-driving teacher put it.
She is the kind of person I would have run from screaming when I was younger, but she managed to motivate those she loved. She’s a terror and a lover—if you get on her good side. And she does not settle—ever.
What surprised me about this documentary was the relatively small amount of cooking in it. I expected all cooking, all the time, but most of the movie was taken up with stories about the contestants’ families and other aspects of their lives. The cooking competitions themselves functioned like punctuation.
My favorite character was Fatoumata, a girl from Africa who was basically a slave to her father and her stepmother. She did all the cooking and cleaning for them, but she was so earnest in her appreciation of the opportunities this high school in Philadelphia offered her. And in the end, she won a scholarship through the cooking competition, won her freedom by attending Monroe College and being “happily on her own.”
At the end we met one of the directors, Jennifer Grausman, as we have with every movie we’ve seen at the Starz Denver Film Festival. And when asked how she came across these people, she said her dad runs a nonprofit program called the Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, which distributes scholarships to at-risk high school students who train in the culinary arts.
Todd and I went to the Closing Night show, which was Last Chance Harvey. Here’s my review: if you are completely, absolutely addicted to Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, go see that movie. Otherwise, don’t bother.
The Last Reel party was fun, but Bill Pullman left halfway through the movie. That’s the closest I ever got to a celebrity in my life!
Go forth and eat, everyone! Happy Thanksgiving.
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