By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Jan 22, 2021 at 12:26 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?

"Hell's Kitchen" might just be living up to its name for Adam, at least judging by his facial reactions and demeanor during these early episodes. Sure, he doesn't have a ton of lines for the second straight week, but his few lines and reaction shots speak an Aaron Sorkin dialogue's worth. 

Also for the second straight week, Adam and the guys' team was riding the struggle bus to work, due in no part to Adam, who once again avoided the wrath of Ramsay and company while other team members got plenty of egg on their faces (or in their garbage cans when they were explicitly told not to throw them out). 

Adam represented well in the first challenge, a test of cooking skill and speed ... scooter speed that is, as the chefs were challenged to recreate Ramsay's Caesar salad and then zip said appetizer over to Ramsay after taking two laps on a scooter. Because when I'm looking for my next chef, one of the most important skills I'm looking for is scootering abilities. But Adam jets his way around the course with ease and – most importantly – makes a quality Caesar salad too, finishing his salad second amongst the guys in this timed contest.

Unfortunately, his tasty greens and optimistic attitude weren't enough to solidify the win as the ladies – even with two more salads to make – beat the boys. Adam did not seem pumped – and that's BEFORE he found out the punishment was peeling infamously fragile and finnicky quail's eggs. But once again, even when the boys' team trips, Adam has (thus far) never been the cause or put himself at risk. 

It especially helped that the rest of his team stepped up for the service portion of the episode, finally scoring the fellas a win while putting the women in a place to send their first team member home. I mean, the guys didn't knock it out of the park – a bunch of meats were once again flung in anger and scallops were counted with RAGE – but, unlike the women, they actually finished their service. All the while, Adam avoided any of Ramsay's fire, leaving Marc and Declan to fight amongst themselves, Cody to muck up his seafood and Drew to struggle in keeping tabs on his kitchen attire.

He's cooled off a bit since his big opening episode, but Adam's ability to stay stable and competently perform quality shifts – not angering anybody on his team or Chef Ramsay in the process – keeps him amongst the contenders, even if he's dropped out of the spotlight. 

Quick bites

  • No television this year has been more satisfying than watching self-appointed "Captain Motormouth" Marc and "King of Unearned Confidence" Cody trip all over themselves this episode, the former dealing with both salad and egg-peeling snafus and the latter with his botched scallops and salmon. I don't think we'll have to deal with them this season for as long as I feared. The episodes in which they're fired should be nominated for Emmys, Oscars and possibly a Pulitzer prize. 
  • Drew ... please, in the name of God and all that is holy, wear a belt. Or suspenders! No matter the case, I now know too much about your lower back, and my eyes are filled with both regret and tears. 
  • I did not know that Gordon Ramsay had veto power over people's elimination selections, but I love it! After a miserable service in which Jordan confusingly couldn't communicate – to neither her team, Gordon Ramsay or  the cameras – and Fabiola botched not one, not two, but three flatbreads after a strange, unexplained meltdown, the ladies made a strange call. They put up Lauren and rookie chef Nikki for elimination. Clearly the team surmised they'd  get rid of the weakest chefs; but they did so without regard to performance. So, Ramsay called them out, nixed their votes and chose (the more obvious candidates) Fabiola and Jordan, ultimately axing Fabiola. Ramsay's angry, no-nonsense persona can be a bit much at times; but I thought this was a productive (and also VERY entertaining) way to utilize it. 
  • Speaking of Fabiola, before she broke in the kitchen, the contestant had an odd mental and physical breakdown. After winning the salad-scooting challenge, the women's prize was a trip to the desert to ride dune buggies. But, along the way, something must've jostled in Fabiola's brain because when they came back to HQ, she seemed to have a full-on panic attack, complete with a hand in the camera's face like this was TMZ. We never really got a coherent explanation – maybe it was exhaustion or dehydration, maybe she just hates car pools – but, now that she's gone, I guess we never will.
  • Our special guest celebrity tables tonight were Olympian Apolo Ohno and Super-Bowl-winning running back Marshall Faulk. Of course, there was also an appearance from Dan Reynolds, lead singer of Imagine Dragons, who is arguably more famous than Ohno and Faulk, who got big exciting introductions. Dan Reynolds' publicity agent: asleep on the job, though maybe this is on the show's editor because a random bachelorette party strangely seemed to get more screentime than our three famous guests combined. 
  • Kori continues to stand as the unquestioned leader of the girls team, calling out people who need to focus and helping organize her fellow chefs. It didn't work out this week – and I don't know if it's an assumed position or one she's earned out of respect from her compatriots – but she's put herself in a frontrunner's spot. 
  • Remind me to never attempt peeling quail eggs. 
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.