By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Feb 19, 2021 at 12:56 PM

A Milwaukee chef is finding out if he can stand the heat in the world's most famously intense kitchen. Adam Pawlak – owner of Egg & Flour pasta bar has taken on 17 other cooks (and infamously irritable celeb chef Gordon Ramsay) on the latest season of FOX's "Hell's Kitchen."

Airing Thursday nights at 7 p.m., the long-time reality competition pits chefs from across the country (and the globe, in this season's case) for a chance to win the head position at Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen restaurant in Lake Tahoe, complete with a salary of $250,000. Along the way, dishes and egos are broken, some contestants burn their food, and Ramsay famously burns contestants, breaking their hearts one by one. Ultmately, one chef reigns supreme... and hopefully, this season, that chef ends up being Pawlak. 

So will Pawlak serve up four-star food – or at the very least four-star entertainment? Watch dining editor Lori Fredrich and me recap of the latest episode – complete with wine, natch – and be sure to join us every Thursday night at 8:10 p.m. to talk about the show and discuss if our Milwaukee chef is having a heavenly time during his stint in "Hell's Kitchen."

How'd Adam do?

Maybe it was all the work with seafood and shellfish this week, but Adam was sea-level salty on Thursday night, copping an attitude with Amber, his other teammates and the rival red team throughout the episode. And, just in case he wasn't already in a mood, for the first time this season Adam ended up in deep water with Ramsay too.

For a moment, I really thought Adam might be at risk of sinking.

In case the typhoon of aquatic puns were a wash (OK, I'M DONE!), this week's focus – for the show and for Adam personally – was on seafood. First, the two teams faced off in a surf and turf taste test, with each team responsible for identifying the cleverly disguised proteins on each of three plates – one of the land, one of the sea – as quickly as possible. The red team went first and guessed all three plates in about eight minutes and 46 seconds, setting the benchmark for Adam and the blue team.

And while Adam was positioned to go last in the challenge, he didn't keep his thoughts to himself while his teammates were chewing and chasing down the correct proteins from a mammoth display of options. Unfortunately – for one of the first times this series – his thoughts were wrong, as he insisted to Cody that the mussels on the first plate were clams. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but Adam really should've listened to Cody. What a world. 

I hoped Adam would make up for his mussel mistake, but when it came to his time on the final plate – with about two and a half minutes to identify the combination of snapper and squab – he totally beefed (and fished) it. It didn't help that he was paired up with Declan, who for some baffling reason – after struggling all the way through identifying the pairings on the second plate with Amber – was the team member given a second go.

It was not only that the guy couldn't identify anything, he also moved around the competition with the life and urgency of one of the slabs of meat on the table and seemed to clam up under pressure. Then again, Adam wasn't much better: guessing incorrectly, not listening to his teammates' recommendations and apparently ignoring the color-coded system of guidance. (Red meant both proteins were wrong; green meant both were right; and blue meant one was correct. But when their color turned up blue ... they ignored the signal and proceeded to swap out both proteins. Dear reader, I hurt and died.)

In the end, their screw-ups cost the blue team the win, giving the red team a surfing day trip while Adam and company had to spend their time shelling enough crabs to make Maryland jealous.

So no, that would not help tensions on the blue team as Adam sulked about Amber – remember: she's not an original blue team member, but a transplant – both after the challenge with Declan and Cody, as well as during the exceptionally crabby de-shelling session.

Amber wants the team to actually start treating her as one of its members, while Adam and the rest of the crew perceive her as only "half-in," as she continues to consort with the red team. The tension builds as Amber and the team try coming together in conversation during the crabbening; but then Adam dead-voice sasses that he's choosing to stay quiet because "I like talking when it's meaningful." (Cut to him in his confessional saying that all-essential reality show line that – let's all say it together now – he's not here to make friends). Well that's not very Midwestern of you! And here I was thinking he and Amber were friendly from before the show!

Adam may not be here to make friends, but Syann was certainly being friendly with him this episode – coming on strong with a little flirty distraction (and some much needed tension deflation) – while Adam was hacking away at his crab. Apparently this isn't a rare occurance as, according to Adam, big Black women love him. Good to know ... and good for him! She's fun, sincere and good company, so I'm fine shipping these two. (Aquatic pun genuinely not intended.) 

Unfortunately, while Syann brought a smile to Adam's crabby face, it didn't last long. Adam once again had to battle the kraken that is the seafood station during dinner service. And at first, it looked like it would drag him down to the bottom – as it has done to Josh and many others before  – as Adam briefly abandoned his scallops on the stove to run to the fridge, resulting in some visually overcooked ocean critters that Chef Ramsay was (unsurprisingly) not pumped to see. Thankfully, the full Ramsay rage experience, complete with food confetti, didn't make an appearance; but it was enough to seemingly scare Adam straight after he'd come into the kitchen with brash confidence that – with him manning the station – fish wouldn't flounder this week. 

It was apparently enough to scare the rest of the blue team straight too, because after some brief kerfuffles about Amber's steak sear (which, in the end, showed good judgment on her part), they locked it up and delivered what Ramsay called the best service session he'd seen on the show in a long time.  It was so good that they not only won the week, but also took over for the red team after the team botched their service by committing one too many miscues.

So phew, after his roughest week thus far, Adam wasn't on the chopping block. And best of all, it seems like maybe Adam and the blue team have pushed their in-fighting ways out to sea. 

Well, considering this is "Hell's Kitchen," probably not, especially since Adam's made it clear he's not going for the title of Mr. Congeniality. 

Quick bites

  • Bad news for those wanting more of that Syann and Adam heat in the kitchen. Syann was eliminated after a rough night with salmon, not only burning multiple fillets but then also constantly holding up the blackened results to show her teammates. Yeah, I'd rather not have the burnt salmon that you waved around in your hands like an iPhone. Combine that with her not-stellar Italian cooking demonstration last week and communication woes in the kitchen – and despite her bright personality – she was an easy guess to go home. RIP SyAdam: Feb. 19-Feb. 19. 
  • Forget "WandaVision" or anything else: The biggest TV twist this year was me yelling, "Everyone shut up and listen to Cody!" during the surf and turf challenge. Truly we are living in unusual times. 
  • So Amber's miscues with fish last week might make a little more sense after her reveal this episode that she's allergic to shellfish. Between having to snack on her body's kryptonite and dealing with the blue team's lack of confidence in her cooking, I doubt this was her favorite episode. However, she did humble Declan and company during service by recognizing that the sear on her inaugural steak was subpar  and – despite the team's objections – refiring a new steak and delivering steak perfection to (and earning praise from) Chef Ramsay. You win some, you get allergic reactions to some.
  • How ... why ... I just ... BUT REALLY WHY DID THE BLUE TEAM HAVE DECLAN GO TWICE IN THE SURF AND TURF CHALLENGE!? WHAT IS THEIR AVERSION TO WINNING!? What part of him botching up his first plate so much that Amber had to risk her health to taste the lobster on the plate – and getting it right too – told the guys, "Yeah, this guy who keeps getting everything wrong (and moves at a glacial pace) needs another shot at this"? Why not have Marc and Cody do it again?  Yes, it was so bad I was pleading for MORE Marc and Cody on my screen. Years off my life ... 
  • Jordan has to be gone next, right? For three episodes in a row now, her communication issues have been a problem during service – and we're running out of lesser chefs to axe instead of her. She better hope the blue team loses again next week – though considering their APPARENT HATRED OF VICTORY, maybe she won't need to hope.
  • I assumed Kori was the leader in the red kitchen, but considering how fast they turned on her for some undercooked French fries and some not-entirely-founded accusations of communication problems (ultimately putting her up for elimination) I have to wonder if she's as secure with her team as I thought. She's at least secure with Ramsay, who rejected her nomination for elimination and replaced her with Jordan; but a few more mediocre cooking challenges, like the Italian and Mexican rounds, and maybe she'll lose him too. 
Matt Mueller Culture Editor

As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.

When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.