Out of the ‘Pressure Cooker’ and Into the Fire

Five years after they competed for college scholarships in a cooking competition, the stars of the doc are working in the real world.

Nayery shopping for healthy ingredients in New York City. (Photo: Participant Media)

Jun 13, 2013· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

It has been five years since cameras followed a group of students enrolled in the Culinary Arts program at Philadelphia’s Frankford High School. The resulting documentary, Pressure Cooker, showed the teenagers being put through the paces by instructor/drill sergeant Wilma Stephenson. On the line? Tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarship money from the Career through Culinary Art Program cooking competition.

If you watched the 2009 documentary, you know that Ms. Stephenson’s students pulled in plenty of scholarship money in the competition. But where did a college education—which might not otherwise have been possible for these working-class black and Latino students—land the stars of the film? Five years later, a new video follows up with Jerome, Nayery and Dudely.

After cooking for celebrities and athletes during his years in culinary school, Jerome is now the executive chef at Museum Bar in Atlanta. “When I first met the owner here, he said, ‘Listen, I’m handing over to you a two-million-dollar establishment,’ ” Jerome says confidently. “ ‘I’m putting my trust into you; I’m not the one making sure this food is good. I’m not the one making sure that people are coming back.’ ” The owner told him he would have to own it; Jerome makes it clear that he is.

In New York City, Nayery is pursuing a culinary career too, but one with a far different focus: She works as a nutritionist for Woman Infants and Children (WIC). With two years of culinary arts and two years of nutrition studies behind her, Nayery can inform WIC recipients not only about what they and their children need to eat to be healthy, but also how to cook that food. “The people who do receive the food stamps, they have to learn to cook the fruit and vegetables they might not know about,” she says.

And Dudely, the football star who makes a mean fried chicken? He graduated from Bloomsburg with a degree in business management with a focus in marketing. His plan is to open his own business, but it’s unclear if his entrepreneurship will be of a culinary persuasion. But he still likes to cook whenever he can. “You can save money that way and you can actually eat much healthier that way if you cook your own food,” Dudely says as he prepares chicken, broccoli and macaroni for his family, “because you know what’s being done to the food.”