The Detroit Free Press and the USA TODAY Network announce “Coldwater Kitchen,” a revealing documentary about a culinary program inside Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan, is making its world-wide debut tonight at DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival. “Coldwater Kitchen” follows Chef Hill and three of his students as they navigate the challenges within prison and the transition back into society.
For 30 years, Chef Jimmy Lee Hill has led a highly regarded culinary training program at the correctional facility, offering a renewed sense of purpose through the craft of fine dining — everything from foie gras to lobster.
In the film, Ernest Davis, sentenced to life without the possibility of parole as a teenager, appears in court at age 51 to advocate for freedom, leaning on Chef Hill’s prayers to get him through. Dink Dawson, a returning citizen, utilizes the culinary skills learned from Chef Hill to open his own restaurant with his daughter. Bradley Leonard, a gifted culinary expert battling addiction, tutors students in Chef Hill’s food tech program while facing his own daily temptations. “Coldwater Kitchen” addresses the fear, addiction and violence that is met with determination and promise in this intimate glimpse into the lives of these three students.
“As a character-driven film, ‘Coldwater Kitchen’ allows viewers to emotionally connect with incarcerated men and the family members who support them,” said Brian Kaufman, co-director and Detroit Free Press executive video producer. “Through joy, sorrow and struggle, the experiences of Chef Jimmy Lee Hill and his students counteract assumptions and stereotypes related to incarceration and show the power of food in reshaping lives.”
This film unveils the vulnerability of individuals released from incarceration as they reenter society. With compassion and humanity, the Detroit Free Press connects powerful journalism and storytelling to spotlight the justice system. “Coldwater Kitchen” will also be featured at Freep Film Festival, the documentary-focused festival produced by the Detroit Free Press.
This is the second documentary from the Detroit Free Press to screen at DOC NYC. “12th and Clairmount,” a documentary about the 1967 Detroit Rebellion, screened to a sold-out crowd in 2017 and was featured in the New York Times and Variety.
“We’re thrilled DOC NYC has included ‘Coldwater Kitchen,’” said Peter Bhatia, executive producer and Detroit Free Press editor and senior vice president. “This is a meaningful film that fully embraces the Free Press’ commitment to showing life’s successes and failings in an impactful way and highlighting people like Chef Hill who are making a difference.”
The film screening will feature a question-and-answer session with Co-Directors Brian Kaufman and Mark Kurlyandchik; Jimmy Lee Hill, Dink Dawson and Ernest Davis; and Executive Producer Desiré Vincent Levy. DOC NYC tickets for “Coldwater Kitchen” can be purchased here.