By Matt Mueller Culture Editor Published Mar 12, 2021 at 12:31 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, shattering their hearts one by one.

Ultimately, one chef reigns supreme ... and even though that chef didn't end up being Pawlak this season, dining editor Lori Fredrich and I are still recapping the latest episodes – complete with wine (natch).

So how's this season surviving without Adam? Let's talk (and drink) about it:

Be sure to join us every Thursday night at 8:10 p.m. to talk about the show and discuss who's having a heavenly time in "Hell's Kitchen."

How'd (the blue team without) Adam do?

We didn't need another episode to prove eliminating Adam last week over Marc was stupid. Everyone knew it was idiotic, salmon-exploding nonsense the moment it happened. But just in case, Thursday night's "Hell's Kitchen" provided some unnecessary bonus confirmation – loudly and immediately – that mistakes were made. 

And I mean IMMEDIATELY. The first minute of the show was the blue team – mainly Cody and Marc – getting into a howling match in the apartment after Adam got the boot. Now, if I was Marc, I'd maybe be humbled by this experience, realizing that my butt was irrationally saved by the grace of Gordon Ramsay and putting together that my already unamused team would be even more furious that I was still around at the expense of a more liked and more talented chef. Perhaps I would consider trying to work better as a team, considering that's been a flaw in my game this entire series and, if I wanted to demonstrate growth, that's a great place to do it. 

Marc, however, chose a different path: the path of scorched earth and death wishes. Convinced that his other three teammates just can't handle his "fierceness," he happily engages an understandably agitated Cody, who points out that part of the reason why Marc's still here is because he lied to Chef Ramsay, saying that his station was not a problem during service and that Adam's garnish unit was the issue. Marc starts yelling about how Cody messed up dishes in the past (if I was Marc, I would not point at the scoreboard) and making sure his three teammates are his enemies. Seems like an excellent display of composure under fire; WOULD CERTAINLY WANT SOMEONE LIKE HIM RUNNING MY LAKE TAHOE RESTAURANT OVER, SAY, ADAM!

Thankfully for everyone's eardrums, the episode moves along to the cooking challenge – this time, a burger cook-off in which each team plays 52 (plus 400 more) card pickup to select the ingredients for five different burgers: classic beef, salmon, turkey, chicken and lamb. Things don't go any better for the blue team this week, though, as they lose the battle, 3-2.

And surprise, surprise: Marc is on the low end of the blue team performances with his salmon burger – or more like grilled jalapeños with a side of salmon burger – as he stacked the thing with a whole bunch of peppers for Ramsay and guest chef Laurent Tourondel. Logical, because when I think people with famously spice-tolerant palates, I think a Brit and a Frenchman. Way to cook for your audience, Marc. You know who probably would've been wiser in his burger blueprints? I'll give you a hint: He had a beard.

So while the red team gets to smash up cars, the blue team has to peel, slice and smash up potatoes. Oh, and gaggingly drink up the milkshake-ized leftovers of their failed burgers. This is literally the exact opposite reason why I would watch a food show! We spent more time gulping down malted backwash than actually getting to see the food made in the first place! Anyways, after watching that, maybe Adam's happy he's gone. 

He certainly had to be pleased not having to be a part of the blue team's service Thursday night, which was an unsurprising blizzaster. The teams were able to select their respective stations this week, so Marc went with appetizers – and botched the whole night, working hazily with his teammates, repeatedly finding new ways to ruin his risotto (including just ... forgetting to turn his stove on) and curdling his carbonara. Even with Cody lending multiple aggrevated hands throughout the night – and even with an enraged private pep talk from Ramsay – Marc couldn't get it together. Worst of all, in the process, he tried to hurl Cody under the bus, blaming him for his stove being turned off. The man was the definition of flailing.

Then again, it's not like the rest of the time was firing on all cylinders. Cody and Declan couldn't communicate on an order, resulting in the former carrying up some lamb that was still baah-ing, while Amber also cooked up some unsatisfactory salmon that got pounded into fish dust by a very displeased Ramsay. In the end, while the red team hummed the night away, the blue team's service ended well early. If only they had somebody with quality cooking skills and better leadership skills, or even just the ability to work in a team without detonating like a stink bomb. If only ...

Well, gosh, I wonder who will get sent up for elimination by the blue team! Indeed, Marc was the first person obviously getting thrown to the wolves – a surprise to no one except for Marc, who all-too-loudly took up the impossible task of defending his food-murdering work during service Thursday night. Spoiler: It didn't work, as he was outvoted three to one – millions of people to one, if you include everyone and anyone watching too. 

The only question was who would join him – and the result was Cody, a fairly shocking decision until he explained his thinking. Basically, he was daring Ramsay to make another idiotic decision. He's the best leader and one of the stronger cooks on the blue team who's proven himself week in and week out; putting himself up against the obvious weak link was essentially making the choice for Ramsay. Either finally send home Marc and end our national nightmare – or send Cody home and make a fool out of yourself. Again. 

Thankfully, for the sake of our sanity, Ramsay didn't. Despite Marc's attempts to say that he was being assassinated by his teammates and pinning his failings on the rest of the blue team, Ramsay had enough – albeit a week too late. Marc is gone – and, in fittingly annoying and egomaniacal fashion, blaming his defeat on the fact that his teammates couldn't handle his spirit and energy. Ask those risotto and carbonara dishes in the trash about your spirit and energy, dude. 

Despite all the drama, Thursday night's "Hell's Kitchen" was awfully boring. And sure, some of that is subjective and can be blamed on the fact that my favorite in the contest got axed – but it was also boring because it was obvious who the worst team was and who was easily the worst part of that worst team. It was an hour of waiting for the inevitable – and while, yes, that inevitable was satisfying and a relief, imagine how much more enjoyable it would've been if it happened, say, a week ago instead when our patience was already beyond angel hair thin? The show traded out Adam for drama and didn't even get the latter. A shame. 

Quick bites

  • Ten episodes in, and it's still incredible to me how much this supposed food show doesn't trust that its audience would be interested in food. This episode in particular seemed to want every distraction possible. Magicians! Crushing cars! Milkshakes that most certainly did not bring the boys to the yard! – from having to show or discuss the food on the plates. It's blatantly pointless filler, but even more depressing, it's so stuck in 2005 with this idea that people have no actual interest in appreciating food and need other stuff to entertain them. If there was something (*gestures at entire TV channels and huge profitable corners of social media*) to disprove that notion!
  • One need not be Nostradamus– or even need spoilers – to predict that the winner this season is coming from the red team.
  • Speaking of red team members, Nikki continues to prove her naysayers – most notably the ones on her very own team – wrong. She had an awesome night in service, performing so well that Chef Ramsay brought her aside for a very rare positive private meeting, complimenting her work. She's probably still too green to win the head job at Lake Tahoe, but I imagine she'll win a lot of other job offers after her positive and impressive showing this season. 
  • Cody rules – and considering how cocky he was coming into the show, it'll never not be shocking to say that. He basically single-handedly got Marc eliminated from the show (well, maybe not single-handedly; Marc did most of the work there) by taking one for the team and forcing Ramsay's hand. And for that, we should be eternally grateful. 
  • I can't say anyone should duplicate Ramsay's unproductively loud and menacing demeanor during services on the show ... but that being said, slap-murdering a salmon into bits looks extremely satisfying. Is there a business like a smash room, but instead of beating up windows and file cabinets, you just punch tilapia into oblivion? Let's make this happen, America. 
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.